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Kent fighting for Hampshire draw
Kent fighting for Hampshire draw

Jack Leaning and Ben Compton gave Kent a chance of saving a Vitality County Championship draw against Hampshire.

Leaning led the resolve in the first innings by returning from injury to score 118, before Compton bedded in with 71 not out in the second innings.

But their determination came with a backdrop of a 162-run first innings deficit, meaning Hampshire forced them to follow-on, and just eight wickets in hand heading into the final day.

The duo ended the day with a 84 unbroken partnership with Kent up to 132 for two, with the deficit down to just 30 runs.

After James Vince’s swashbuckling 211 on day one, and a fast-paced day two, the third day never progressed from sedate – with six wickets falling and 269 runs scored.

Leaning returned on 73, having guided the visitors around an unconvincing evening session which saw them end up six down and trailing by 299 runs.

He survived Vince dropping him at first slip on 84 but was otherwise restrained and oozed leadership in his fight back while marshalling the tail.

Leaning had missed the last seven weeks with a broken hand, which he suffered during the drawn match with Worcestershire in May.

In that innings he had scored an unbeaten 179 and he made it back-to-back hundreds in 207 balls, the 10th of his career, sixth since joining Kent and second in his last three visits at Utilita Bowl.

Around Leaning, two wickets fell on either side of the second new ball.

Charlie Stobo’s sensible 28 was ended two overs before the new ball was unveiled when James Fuller pinned him leg before.

And then four balls into the new cherry, Grant Stewart was rapped on the pads by Mohammed Abbas.

But Matt Parkinson took more time out of the game with Leaning, and minimised the deficit with a no-thrills 24. The pair put on 44 to frustrate the hosts.

But Leaning’s majestic innings was ended when Kyle Abbott splayed his stumps and Kent were bowled out for 343 when Parkinson fended Keith Barker to first slip – Barker ending with four for 85.

The last four Kent wickets put on 137 to almost avoid the follow-on, but despite their efforts Vince was able to turn them back around.

Feroze Khushi was more restrained than his thrilling first-innings 53, but fell for a short ball trap to top edge Barker to long leg.

Daniel Bell-Drummond lasted slightly longer before Liam Dawson extracted enough turn to cannon into off-stump.

But Compton found company with that man Leaning to take any sting out of the day.

Opener Compton reached fifty in 114 balls with a reverse sweep, a shot with betrayed his staunchness.

Leaning was dropped by Vince for the second time in the day but was otherwise solid to all-but wipe out the deficit.

Hampshire will need eight wickets and likely a bit of a chase on the final day, and might be without Barker – who pulled up during a delivery midway through the evening and didn’t return.

Kent batter and captain Jack Leaning said:

“I think we showed a lot of fight. We got about a par score for what the pitch was in the first innings as there is always something there for the bowlers.

“We were a bit disappointed not to get up above the follow-on but me and Ben Compton have got us into a better position than we were in so hopefully we have a nice big partnership tomorrow and drive the game.

“Hopefully we will be in a position where we can turn that deficit around and have a bowl at them later in the day and put them under pressure.

“I have been out for the last seven weeks sat watching and wishing I was out there since the Worcestershire game.

“I was pretty determined to get out there and make some contributions for the team and luckily today was my day.

“We need to be nice and patient and clear with our plans tomorrow. It starts with me and Ben in the morning and hopefully we can bat beyond lunch and really set us into a position where we can push and win the game.”

Hampshire fast bowler Kyle Abbott said:

“It has been a long day and a half but we knew we had to push on with the follow-on today. There is a bit of weather around tomorrow so our best chance was to send them back in.

“If we had taken two sessions out with the bat it wouldn’t have helped us tomorrow.

“We are still in a good position and the boys are in a good space. We know it is going to be hard work but we need to push on for a victory.

“I thought we bowled well, they didn’t go anywhere and we kept the pressure on them. We just couldn’t get the breakthrough, we just needed a bit more luck.

“We’ll still back ourselves to score 150 on there, and if that is the case then they are going to have to bat beyond tea tomorrow to take it out of our hands. There is a big opportunity.

“I had a chat with Keith in the dressing room and he doesn’t think it is as bad as he originally thought. When it went he thought it was a bit of cramp so he was taken precautions.”