Lancashire toil as Key passes 1,000 mark

Kent 416-4 v Lancashire

Robert Key is nothing if not prolific. England may not want him, but Kent are certainly glad of him. He scored his fifth hundred in seven first-class innings for the county here yesterday, although a double hundred still eludes him.

Robert Key is nothing if not prolific. England may not want him, but Kent are certainly glad of him. He scored his fifth hundred in seven first-class innings for the county here yesterday, although a double hundred still eludes him.

But even before he had reached three figures Key had passed another landmark, becoming the first player to score 1,000 runs for the season. As for the toiling Lancashire side they looked shattered after conceding 400 runs for the first time this summer. Just two points separated the two sides before the start of the day, with Lancashire holding the whip hand in second place in the table, to Kent's fifth. By the close those positions had been reversed and there was a whole raft of runs between the two teams.

The bulk of those runs had come from Key and Ed Smith, who between them had put on 229 in 58 entertaining overs for the second wicket, a record for Kent against Lancashire. Like Key, Smith also reached three figures. And like Key, this was his maiden hundred at the picturesque Neville Ground. The pair rarely looked troubled, no matter what piece of armoury Lancashire used against them.

Smith's previous highest this season had been in the 30s, but he batted better and better as the day wore on. He reached the 19th hundred of his career after almost three hours at the crease. By then, Key had reached his 21st. He was obviously looking for a double, especially given the pain of his last outing, against Surrey at the Oval - he lost his wicket on 199.

Throughout his six-hour stint yesterday there was the impression that he would make it this time. The three boundaries hit off the second over of the morning, bowled by Dominic Cork, underlined that notion.

Key did lose his opening partner, David Fulton, midway through the morning session, Steven Crook getting one to pitch middle and hit off, but for the bulk of the day the bat dominated on a benign track.

Clearly, being overlooked by England has not dimmed Key's enthusiasm or determination. By the time he fell, lbw to the persevering Glenn Chapple, he was 20 short of that double century, but Key had helped earn Kent their first maximum batting bonus points of the season.

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