Kent 327 & 419-6 dec, Lancashire 317 & 218-3: Tense quest for points leads Key and Chilton to stalemate

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The Independent Online

By David Llewellyn at Canterbury

There was a sense of anticlimax to what was a crucial match for both teams. Lancashire clambered up to third place in the Championship, albeit temporarily, and still have a game in hand over leaders and Roses rivals Yorkshire.

The draw earned Kent enough points to create a plumper cushion between themselves and Second Division cricket next season, but the home crowd had hoped for more.

In the end though contriving a positive result out of this match was beyond either captain, both being light of a bowler – Muttiah Muralitharan for Lancashire, Ryan McLaren for Kent (although he did send down four innocuous overs at the end).

Mark Chilton, the Lancashire captain, had accepted that Kent would want to bat them out of the game, which Robert Key and Matthew Walker duly did. Kent were reluctant to risk losing out on the four points available for a draw when things are so tight among the relegation candidates.

Their parlous situation dictated that they need every point they can glean. The consequences of this draw are, as Key said later, that "the tense cricket starts now".

And that goes for Lancashire as well. They are pushing hard in the title race and they too could ill have afforded defeat and missing out on those four points for the draw. So there were no thoughts of target setting when Kent resumed their second innings on 334 for 2. By the time Kent captain Key called them in the unlikely equation was 430 off a minimum of 82 overs.

Kent reached that total, chiefly courtesy of Walker. Key had added only a dozen runs to his overnight 170 when he was caught behind off Dominic Cork. Joe Denly quickly followed his captain back into the dressing room, after becoming Steven Croft's first Championship victim, but Walker found a stable partner in Neil Dexter.

They hammered 61 in seven overs, time and runs enough for Walker to pass 150 for the seventh time in his career. He was bowled by Oliver Newby after almost six hours at the crease. The bowler struck again next ball to have new man Simon Cook lbw and leave himself on a hat-trick when he next takes to the field – Lancashire's next Championship outing is a key meeting with Durham, which begins at Blackpool on Thursday.

Martin van Jaarsveld's fractured thumb, which hampered his ability to bowl, did not handicap his slip fielding as catches to dismiss Chilton and Paul Horton bore witness, but Lancashire wickets, as well as Kent's depleted attack applied themselves, were too few and there was too long between each of them.

When Stuart Law was hit on the hand by the admirable Martin Saggers Kent hopes were raised briefly, but the Australian returned to help Croft ensure the draw.