THE BEST Kent can hope for is to keep winning and keep their fingers crossed. On the third day here, those superstitious by nature would have really been going through the age-old motions at one stage, after five had gone down with the lead over Gloucestershire a not too convincing 210. The locals, though, could afford to unwind once the collective recovery operation was underway.
Better than that, Kent worked themselves into a position which should be rewarded today with their eighth win in the Championship, a 21-pointer to keep the leaders Essex on their toes. Carl Hooper set the ball rolling from Gloucestershire's grasp with a wonderfully fluent 56, smoothing the way for Matthew Fleming and Steve Marsh to drive on to their own half-centuries.
By the time their second innings was wrapped up, Kent had stretched the distance to 397 and were left looking at four and a bit sessions in which to wheedle out the opposition. The St Lawrence Ground is promised an interesting finish at the start of the Bank Holiday weekend. When two wickets fell in two overs in the morning, however, you would not have been banking on that.
Neil Taylor's 96 the previous evening had set up Kent, but they appeared vulnerable when the nightwatchman Richard Davis top-edged Courtney Walsh to a jumping Jack Russell. Walsh struck again in his next over, too, when he had Graham Cowdrey padding up. Hooper, meanwhile, was full of confidence and his seventh boundary, taken off Walsh, took him to his seventh 50 of the summer.
When Hooper was eventually leg before, well forward to Richard Scott, Fleming took the attack to Gloucestershire. His eighth four was a cracking square cut off Justin Vaughan, the shot bringing up his 50, the half-century partnership with Marsh, and the 300 lead for Kent.
It was Walsh who finally ended the Fleming bash with his first ball after lunch.
Marsh, in the meantime, emerged from his shell and he had dispatched a six and five fours by the time he was eighth out for a fine 70, Walsh helping to mop up the tail for a 4 for 69 return to go with his 5 for 50 first time around.
As for Gloucestershire, they were 303 adrift and one down when bad light signalled the close.
Half-centuries from Phil Bainbridge, Paul Parker and Ian Smith helped Durham recover from 44 for 3 before they declared 53 behind on 250 for 4 against Hampshire at Darlington yesterday.
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