Kent game in the balance
Kent game in the balance

It will take a significant performance of note, with bat or ball, on the final day of this Specsavers’ County Championship game at Nevil Road, to see one of these two sides push on to victory.

By the close on day three, Gloucestershire, who trailed by a single run on first innings, led visitors Kent by 66 runs thanks to an unbeaten first wicket stand of between Chris Dent and Cameron Bancroft.

However, on a Bristol wicket that is hardly full of demons, a draw certainly looks the most likely result.

The day started brightly for Kent with Daniel Bell-Drummond and Joe Denly adding 44 to their side’s  overnight total before the former was caught by Gareth Roderick off the bowling of Liam Norwell for 58. It was a deserved wicket for Norwell, who bowled with great accuracy and equal ambition from the Pavilion End.

Thereafter, however, Denly and fourth wicket partner Sam Northeast carefully extinguished the fears of following on.

Batting sensibly against Gloucestershire’s all-seam attack, both players not only looked in decent touch, but duly passed 1000 County Championship runs for the summer too.

Eventually, they departed within the space of three balls as Gloucestershire, once again, gave themselves an outside chance. Northeast was bowled by Kieran Noema-Barnett for 66 at 210 for 4 and in the very next over, Denly (57) lobbed up a straightforward catch to Gloucestershire captain Phil Mustard, at mid-off, off the bowling of Matt Taylor.

Zac Crawley and Sam Billings added 54 for the sixth wicket, in decent time, to get Kent’s innings’ back on track, before Crawley was caught off the bowling of Josh Shaw for 10. Billings, who enjoyed his time at the Bristol crease in last season’s fixture between the sides, looked in good touch once again, until he was carelessly run out, for 47, at 283 for 7.

Norwell, who bowled so well from the Pavilion End before lunch, returned after tea from the opposite end and once again looked lively. He beat the outside edge on numerous occasions before sending back Callum Haggett (8) at 339 for 8.

It was left to Darren Stevens (65 not out) to successfully guide Kent to the most slender of first innings’ leads. The veteran struck the ball beautifully, to all four corners, as Gloucestershire failed to consolidate on what had been a very healthy position when Billings departed. He added 31 for the ninth wicket with Matt Coles and a further 16 for the final wicket with Mitchell Claydon.

Gloucestershire, needing to survive until stumps, did so with relative ease, reaching 67 without loss. Dent (41 not out) and Bancroft (25 not out) suffered precious few scares despite the best efforts of the Kent bowlers in the evening sunshine.

Gloucestershire captain Phil Mustard said; “Unfortunately, the game is not going anywhere too fast is it?

“We had a chat with Kent and they had a fantastic opportunity to set up a game and a chase.

“I did feel that after that, they didn’t do what was said. I thought they might have tried to pull the wool over our eyes a bit.

“It was in their hands but it didn’t work.

“I will try to be positive, but I don’t want to set up a game by almost bringing the game into disrepute.

“We will have to see what tomorrow brings.”

Kent captain Sam Northeast said; “I felt they got the wrong end of the stick in terms of what setting up a game means.

“We were very happy to chase 400 but to get there it would have meant some chuck ups and he didn’t want to do that.

“But we do want to win it and we would like to think there is a way of setting up a game of it tomorrow.

“I feel we have a good batting unit, so we will have to see what happens in the morning.”