After Mike Atherton and the Crawley brothers, the arrival of Mark Chilton at Old Trafford from Manchester Grammar School was seen rather like a quiet fifth-former following the prefects. His first five seasons did little to correct the impression, with only four scores past 100, while last year he averaged only 24.
This summer, buttressed by Mal Loye, Iain Sutcliffe and Stuart Law, he has bloomed. Yesterday's was his fourth century of the season, 267 minutes of application and sharp strokeplay, especially his cover driving. With Lancashire needing a further 323 to avoid the follow-on and two batsmen out, they needed an anchor, especially after the comparatively early losses of Carl Hooper and Law.
Chilton's success is deserved. He has become a very useful medium-fast fourth seamer and in the heatwave of Kent's record innings here he and John Wood were valiant chasers and retrievers on the boundary.
Kent, meanwhile, must have felt betrayed. Having made themselves invulnerable, and taken two wickets overnight, they lost yesterday morning to intermittent light rain. When play did start, at 2pm, the pitch was not as helpful as promised on Wednesday and despite the humidity the ball swung less than expected. The outfield, which ought to have slowed, was as quick as ever.
Lancashire's promising progress faltered once Kent's spinners appeared, the off-spinner James Tredwell first bowling Law and then, with Chilton seemingly comfortably set to reach a new career best, having him snatched at silly point.
Lancashire were saved from more disaster by Chris Scho-field, whose batting burgeons while his bowling wobbles, and Glen Chapple, another Yorkshire-born Lancastrian whose batting improves each summer. This breezy pair had the luck of the bold, Geraint Jones twice missing stumping chances - one very difficult - off Tredwell. And when Kent took the new ball, Martin Saggers was twice snicked between the slips.
The pair eventually fell to determined fast bowling in light poor enough for Lancashire to feel aggrieved at the continuation. They were still 106 short of the follow-on target when the umpires finally conceded to the gloom and increasing rain.
David Fulton, Kent's captain, had intimated that he would throw the game open if circumstances permitted but, as of this morning, he may not need to make any concessions.
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