Kent 283 & 317-4 dec Lancashire 125 & 137-3: Joseph's spell leaves Lancashire in trouble

The optimism which had accompanied Lancashire to the St Lawrence Ground for the start of this match was left a trifle dented after a blistering spell of fast bowling by Kent's Robbie Joseph yesterday.

And while Steven Croft and Mark Chilton managed to survive the storm which saw Joseph claim three wickets in four balls at the start of their long chase for the 476 runs needed for victory, the chances of Lancashire pulling off such a result looked almost as gloomy as the clouds and rain which interrupted play for 45 minutes towards the end of the final session.

Joseph's burst had the sizeable crowd out of their seats. Opener Paul Horton, who had had an unhappy first innings, being bowled by the same bowler off the first ball, at least survived for 14 balls this time around, but he could not do much with a belter of a delivery which left him a little and just found the edge and drew a superb catch at second slip from Martin van Jaarsveld.

The next ball was to Mal Loye, who pushed at it and wicketkeeper Geraint Jones took the resulting catch. Francois du Plessis survived the hat-trick ball, but fell lbw next delivery.

That was the end of a dream-like spell for Joseph that left Kent firmly in charge. They were also buoyed by the knowledge that the Lancashire captain, Stuart Law, was still troubled by a back spasm and although he was prepared to bat, as he had in the first innings, the likelihood is that he will be as scratchy this time around as he was in Lancashire's first innings.

Croft and Chilton then proceeded to weather the Kent storm and while there were gasps and groans aplenty, within an hour and a half they had taken their fourth wicket partnership into three figures.

Whether that will be enough to win the match is another matter, but it might just help Lancashire wring a draw out of this encounter, especially if the weather lends a hand today.

Earlier the Kent opener Joe Denly turned his overnight half century into the sixth hundred of his first-class career. Neil Dexter, his second-wicket partner could not quite make it, although he contributed 75 to the 152-run stand. Van Jaarsveld and Denly put on a further 101 for the next wicket, while an unbroken 49 stand between Darren Stevens and Jones enabled the Kent captain, Rob Key, to declare in mid-afternoon, leaving Lancashire a minimum of 146 overs in which to go for victory.