A whirlwind innings by Lancashire all-rounder Glen Chapple injected some excitement into proceedings and deflected attention away from the worrying injury to Muttiah Muralitharan.
Chapple collared the Kent attack from the moment he entered the fray with the second ball after tea – smacking fifty off 44 balls with five sixes and four fours to put Lancashire more or less in control of a match that had threatened to drift away from them.
Runs have been scarce for Chapple thus far this summer, but he quickly turned his batting form on its head, singling out Kent off-spinner James Tredwell for a particularly vicious assault.
Chapple plundered 54 runs off Tredwell (including all his sixes) before Kent captain Rob Key took the second new ball. Not long after Chapple was bowled by Martin Saggers for his highest Championship score since a hundred against Warwickshire three summers ago.
Chapple's antics quite eclipsed his more illustrious partner Stuart Law, who just leaned back on his bat at the non-striker's end and enjoyed the spectacle, although he still managed to pass fifty himself for the 10th time this season, although he too fell shortly before the close – bowled, appropriately, by Tredwell.
There had been mixed fortunes for Lancashire until then. They developed a disturbing habit of losing wickets just when partnerships were getting established, and this against an attack shorn of the services of Ryan McLaren, who has a cracked right thumb.
Captain Mark Chilton was an example. He had just passed fifty before trying to turn the very next delivery, from Tredwell, behind square where an alert Neil Dexter took the catch at short backward square leg.
Lancashire's progress veered from laboured to painfully slow, so much so that attention drifted from the middle to pitchside, and specifically the visitors' balcony, where Muralitharan had clamped an ice pack to his injured right biceps.
Rumours of the Sri Lanka off-spinner's immediate future gathered pace all day, swinging from him being fine to bowl in the Kent second innings, through to taking no further part in the game and culminating with him missing the World Twenty20 tournament in South Africa next month.
All Lancashire would admit was that Muralitharan was undergoing treatment for the injury, but the club offered no clue as to how bad it was. They certainly did not need him to help wrap up the Kent first innings, the last three wickets falling in just six overs.Reuse content