KENT made a faltering reply to Northamptonshire’s first-innings on the second day of their County Championship clash at Canterbury.
The hosts went in at stumps on 123 for three after Northamptonshire’s had extended their overnight score of 244 for four to 418 all out.
Having taken just over nine hours to dismiss the visitors on what appeared a placid pitch, Kent’s top order all experienced some difficulty contending with fading light and variable bounce.
On-loan opener Scott Newman went for 16 just after tea, inside edging Lee Daggett’s delivery on to his off stump.
But it was the bowling of Northamptonshire skipper and one-time Kent overseas star Andrew Hall that did most to derail the reply mid-way through the final session.
The South African all-rounder ended a decent second-wicket stand of 63 by enticing left-hander Ben Harmison to drive wide outside off stump, picking out David Willey at backward point.
Then, in his next over from the Nackington Road End, Hall got one to hold its line against the slope and brush the edge of Rob Key’s bat to give a regulation catch to another former Kent man, wicketkeeper Niall O’Brien.
Key batted a shade over two hours for his 48 but, with the floodlights on, and fourth-wicket partners Michael Powell and Brendan Nash saw out the final half-hour to go into day three trailing by 295 runs.
The day had started with David Sales and James Middlebrook hogging centre stage with their side’s record fifth-wicket stand against Kent - 205 in 66.1 overs.
The pair beat the county’s previous best against Kent, the 187 set by Rob Bailey and Richard Williams at Wantage Road 22 years ago.
Sales contributed an excellent 140 to the cause having batted 319 minutes for his part in the stand.
Having just driven James Tredwell for two successive boundaries, Sales attempted an impudent lap-sweep against the England off-spinner only to top-edge to the keeper.
Middlebrook was leg before soon after, off balance and playing across the line to a full ball from Matt Coles, the former Essex man gone for 73.
That brought together Con de Lange and Willey for another century stand, this time for the seventh wicket.
On a docile pitch - and against an old ball - scoring became such an easy past-time that Kent skipper Key introduced his own brand of slow bowling in an effort to encourage an early declaration. His one over cost 11 runs, but failed to have the desired effect as the visitors batted on.
Willey was finally caught in the deep for a career-best 64 in 85 balls, Daggett clipped one to short mid-on and last man Jack Brooks dragged on against Darren Stevens to complete the innings.