Hampshire’s bowlers know they are in for some serious graft if they are to steer their side to a much-needed Championship victory.
Although the Ageas Bowl outfit impressed with the bat to post an imposing 455 all out, an excellent batting pitch offered precious little assistance for the bowlers from either side as Kent reached 149 for four at stumps on day two – still 306 behind.
Scoreboard pressure counts for plenty, but with Kent needing to reach 306 to avoid the follow-on, the home side are in a position to dictate terms if they can make their way through the Kent line-up.
And that was largely down to Neil McKenzie, who hit a glorious 146 in his first appearance of the season.
Sean Ervine (86) was furious that he failed to reach three figures also, but their partnership of 189 was the key to Hampshire’s most authoritative batting performance of the campaign. It was also no coincidence that it was McKenzie’s first game back.
Adam Wheater (21) and Danny Briggs (25) offered some attacking strokes to boost the total, while even David Griffiths (14) smashed two sixes before his luck ran out to became Adam Riley’s seventh match victim.
Riley (seven for 150) bowled nearly 44 overs in a tremendous personal effort for the visitors.
While he didn’t extract huge spin, he caused enough problems and built enough pressure to pick up wickets – including the prized scalp of McKenzie, who didn’t hang about in reaching three figures after resuming his overnight score of 85.
The South African was raising his bat just 10 minutes or so into the morning session as he brought up his century in 153 balls, while he hit 21 fours in his 214-ball knock.
In reply, Kent looked to be in cruise control as Rob Key (47) and Sam Northeast (59) put on a 106-run opening stand, before Ervine made the breakthrough to dismiss the latter.
As so often happens, Key followed in the next over with a loose shot edged behind to Ervine at first slip as the recalled Griffiths (two for 34) made an impact.
Griffiths then struck again to rattle the off-stump of Daniel Bell-Drummond (13), before Danny Briggs exposed the pointlessness of a nightwatchman as Riley departed in the penultimate over of the day.