A week after his 31st birthday Kent batsman James Hockley finally accepted his native county's gift of a rare second chance in professional cricket by playing his side into a commanding position against Yorkshire.
With the game hanging in the balance, the stylish right-hander walked in to play the innings of his life and deflate a buoyant Tykes' attack with a three-and-a-quarter hour act of defiance as Kent extended their match lead to 361 going into the final day.
Having used up the first 33 balls of the day in claiming Yorkshire's final two wickets, Kent were happy to be batting for a second time with a slender lead of 34, but by lunch they had already lost both international openers. Joe Denly edged an airy drive behind off Tim Bresnan, while Robert Key went lbw to Oliver Hannon-Dalby.
The hosts rallied with a brisk 69-ball 50 from Geraint Jones that ended eight balls after lunch when he embarrassingly missed an attempted reverse sweep against David Wainwright and sparked a mini-collapse that saw Sam Northeast and Darren Stevens depart in the space of four overs.
With the score on 207 for six, Adil Rashid dislodged Martin van Jaarsveld for 78, his two-hour stay coming to a surprising end when he played slightly around a googly to go leg before and bring together Hockley and James Tredwell.
In his first spell with the club Hockley enjoyed moderate success in one-day cricket, yet his four-day performances proved patchy. Indeed, until yesterday his modest career-best first-class score was 74 against the touring Zimbabweans in Canterbury in 2000.
It barely created a ripple when, four years after his first-class debut, Hockley was released during the autumn of 2002. He went on to combine teaching with eye-catching Kent League performances for Hartley Country Club.
His batting matured to such an extent that Hockley caught the eye of another Beckenham boy, namely the Kent captain Key, who re-introduced him to the St Lawrence fold for 2009.
Once again, the likable Hockley found his chances limited to four championship starts – an impressive league record 283 not out for the Country Club in a 55-over game against Gore Court proved the highlight of another disappointing summer.
Omitted from Kent's opening four-day side of the summer, Hockley was handed a season's championship debut for this game with a brief to curb his attacking instincts and bolster the middle order. He answered with an impressive 152-ball stay that reaped 11 fours. In tandem with Tredwell, whose chanceless 87-ball 50 befitted his new-found status as a Test player, Hockley nigh on batted championship leaders Yorkshire out of the game.
He missed out on a maiden championship hundred when he edged an attempted leg-side glance to the 'keeper late in the day. All the same, St George's Day became a red-letter day in the Hockley household.Reuse content