Northants dominated proceedings on the opening day of Canterbury week as a Kent batting collapse left the visitors on top in their LV= County Championship Division Two clash.
At the world’s oldest domestic cricket festival – this is the 164th Canterbury week – the hosts were dismissed inside two sessions for a paltry 167.
Northants then reached stumps on 172 for two after only 44 overs of their reply, and with a lead of five going into day two.
Having arrived on an overnight coach following Monday night’s Royal London One-Day Cup win over Somerset at Wantage Road , the visitors made light of fatigue and losing the toss to dominate all three sessions.
Despite resting four key players, Northants looked the fresher and brighter of the two sides from ball one and Kent were made to pay.
Kent lost Daniel Bell-Drummond in the first over as he marked his 22nd birthday with a fourth-ball duck.
Though he survived two leg-before shouts, he pushed hard at an Olly Stone leg-cutter and nicked it low to Richard Levi, who clung on to a low chance at second slip.
A change of ball after 25 minutes and steadily increasing cloud cover made batting trickier, but even so, few anticipated the mini collapse that saw Kent lose three wickets for one run in the space of 10 deliveries after the introduction of Maurice Chambers at the Pavilion End.
The former Essex paceman accounted for Rob Key caught behind, then, to the next delivery, Sam Northeast shouldered arms to lose his off stump.
Former Durham left-hander Ben Harmison was also trying to withdraw the bat in the next over from Muhammad Azharullah, but only succeeded in deflecting the ball onto the base of off stump via the face of his bat.
Joe Denly and Darren Stevens dug in either side of the break, with Denly reaching an attractive 68-ball half-century with nine fours, but with his side’s score on 83 the opener departed and the remaining batsmen were unable to even double the total thereafter.
Five balls after posting his fifty Denly played across one from the impressive Stone to go lbw and four runs later Sam Billings swished across the line of a full ball to go lbw to the same bowler for a duck.
After a scratchy start Stevens punished anything loose to reach 30 before he miscued an over-ambitious drive on the up into the hands of Rob Keogh at extra cover.
James Tredwell steered one from Ben Sanderson into the cordon with a stroke akin to pre-match slip practice, Matt Coles toe-ended a hook to mid-wicket, leaving number eight Calum Haggett to save face with a valiant 49 off 75 balls before he feathered a drive to slip on the cusp of tea.
In a mammoth 44-over final session Northants’ top order proved there were no demons in the pitch as they cantered along for the loss of only two wickets.
Kent made their first breakthrough with 105 on the board when David Murphy miscued a leg-side clip against Tredwell to mid-wicket, but at the other end Ben Duckett cruised to a 36-ball half-century with ten boundaries.
He lost third-wicket partner Alex Wakely (19) when he feathered a defensive prod against Matt Hunn through to the keeper, but it proved Kent’s final success of the day as Murphy closed six short of a hundred together with Keogh on 11 not out.