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County enjoy another solid day

Leicestershire will take a 103-run lead into the final day with eight second-innings wickets intact after an interesting declaration by Kent captain Rob Key at Canterbury.

County resumed their first LV=CC match of the season on 333-9 but there was no addition to the overnight score as Doug Bollinger had Jigar Naik (41) caught behind.

Kent made 269-7 before Key called time with Anthony Ireland and Rob Taylor taking two wickets apiece and Ben Raine, Naik and Charlie Shreck also chipping in.

That represented a 64-run first-innings lead for Leicestershire, who ended day three on 39-2 after Bollinger took two wickets in two balls. Greg Smith (26*, 31b) and Ned Eckersley (4*, 6b) will resume in the morning.

Bollinger dismissed Naik with the fifth delivery of the day and Shreck (20.4-5-63-1) and Ireland (14-3-47-2) bowled well with the new ball for Leicestershire. Kent’s opening fours came when Sam Northeast hit over the slip cordon and down the ground.

Northeast collected another four before Key swivelled and drove in the 10th over to record a brace of boundaries. Kent progressed to 31-0 after 11 overs when a change worked a treat as Northeast drove Raine (13-2-47-1) to Eckersley at cover.

Key went on the counter-attack and a trio of fours were gathered in Shreck’s seventh over. But Ireland returned to take the captain’s wicket as an attempted pull came off the edge. Niall O’Brien ran around to take a well-judged catch.

A flurry of boundaries came from Bell-Drummond and Brendan Nash as Kent continued to show intent and that prompted Josh Cobb to introduce Naik (24-4-64-1). The spinner’s opening five overs cost just three runs and Kent went in on 80-2 from 28 overs with Bell-Drummond and Nash on 15 apiece.

The left-handed Nash collected another four after lunch as the stand passed 50. A Bell-Drummond boundary off Raine took the score to 100 and the young batsman went on to hit three fours in the space of two overs.

Nash and Bell-Drummond each found the ropes but after Taylor (11-1-40-2) saw the West Indies international put down at backward point, the left armer picked up a key wicket by trapping him in front when on 45. It put paid to a gritty 94-run alliance and registered a bowling point for good measure. Shreck and Taylor continued to ask questions but Bell-Drummond registered a 105-ball half-century (8x4) with a single.

Another run took the score to 150 in the 49th over and Naik and Ireland then came on. The duo combined to good effect as Bell-Drummond (58, 135b), who had played nicely, gloved Ireland to Naik at second slip with the score on 164.

Darren Stevens, who offered Ireland a sharp caught and bowled chance early in the innings, opened his account by cutting for four and Ben Harmison (21, 42b) clipped his first boundary off Naik. The off-spinner almost claimed the wicket of Stevens (48, 61b) as the batsman drilled a full toss towards Ireland but the ball just had enough to clear him at deep mid-wicket.

The former Leicestershire man then drove Ireland to the ropes and Kent went to tea on 190-4 after 61 overs with Harmison (21) and Stevens (15) the unbeaten batsmen.

Leicestershire did not have to wait long for their fifth wicket as Harmison was rapped on the pad by Taylor and George Sharp raised the finger. County continued to ask questions as Sam Billings (38, 65b) drove Shreck uppishly towards Cobb at mid-off and Stevens nicked Taylor just short of Naik at slip.

There were now 13 overs to go until the new ball and Naik was reintroduced. Stevens took the attack to the spinner by launching one down the ground and the all-rounder also struck Taylor to the fence in the next over. Stevens then drove Naik for four and Billings collected boundaries as he drove and swept Raine and Naik respectively.

An appeal came as another Billings sweep cannoned off Matthew Boyce at short leg and looped up to O’Brien but the ball was judged to have hit the ground. The 50 stand came up in the 75th over but with the new ball approaching, Stevens swung at Naik and Taylor took a good catch at long-on.

Mitch Claydon (3*, 18b) was almost dismissed twice later in the over; Naik couldn’t quite hang onto a return catch and a drive just cleared Eckersley at cover. Two runs came from that second half-chance to register Kent’s second batting point.

County delayed taking the new ball but Billings hit Raine for two sixes and that prompted Shreck to take the new cherry. The seamer uprooted Billings’ leg stump in his comeback over and it prompted a declaration.

Smith clipped and drove boundaries in the first two overs while Boyce hit a four through the off-side in the third. Bollinger (4-0-19-2) responded by bowling Boyce (8, 10b) and trapping nightwatchman Ireland leg before in the 5th over.

Smith hit four off-side fours in the closing stages as Leicestershire ended in promising fashion, so the game at the Spitfire Ground is nicely poised with a day's play remaining.


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