Ashwell Prince and Paul Horton scored hundreds at Canterbury today as Lancashire bid to end the season in style with a victory over Kent.
The second-wicket pair shared 167 inside 51 overs, the highest partnership of the match so far, as the Red Rose county serenely pushed their second-innings score from 75-0 to 393-5 declared.
They were able to set the hosts an unlikely 418 to win in a little over a day’s play. They closed day three on 32-1 from 9.1 overs and head into the final day of the summer tomorrow needing another 386 more to win and spoil Lancashire’s unbeaten record.
Oliver Newby trapped Daniel Bell-Drummond lbw with the first ball of the last over of the day. Sam Northeast will resume in the morning not out 21.
While Horton enhanced an impressive record in the Championship since returning from a twice dislocated right ring finger at the start of last month with 106, Prince entered the Red Rose record books as first player to score two hundreds in a match since 1998 with 108 off 194 balls to follow his first-innings 134.
He takes his place alongside John Crawley as the last player to achieve that feat - against Glamorgan at Colwyn Bay 15 years ago.
"It looks a bit better now, that conversion rate after this game. It's been a good game," said Prince, who had previously admitted his frustration at only scoring one hundred prior to this match.
"I struggled at the start of my innings this morning. I couldn't get any rhythm going. Then after lunch it was a little bit smoother. I was seeing the ball well, but I just wasn't striking it well. I was trying to force a bit. After lunch, I relaxed a bit and tried to knock it around.
"There's been quite a few milestones in this match. I also think it's the first time I've scored two hundreds in the same match. As a middle order batsman for most of my career, sometimes you don't get two opportunities to bat.”
Prince and Horton united either side of lunch after Horton and fellow opener Luis Reece (47) had completed their fourth century partnership in ten innings together this summer.
Reece passed 700 runs in an excellent breakthrough season, which has seen him play only ten matches, before Horton posted his third hundred in the last four Championship matches off 238 balls with ten fours.
Lancashire’s stand-in captain was caught at slip off Darren Stevens having faced 250 balls and hit ten fours. Since returning from injury, Horton has scored 574 run in eleven innings at an average of 52.2.
The morning and afternoon sessions were like chalk and cheese in terms of run-scoring. Only 65 runs came in 33 overs during the morning session before 143 in 32 during the afternoon. Lancashire’s lead passed 300 just before tea.
The visitors lost two wickets in the first nine overs after tea. Karl Brown top-edged James Tredwell’s off-spin to mid-off and Luke Procter was trapped lbw by Stevens, leaving the score at 317-4 in the 95th.
Shortly after reaching a 190-ball ton, Prince was the victim of an excellent catch behind by Sam Billings off Matt Hunn. He hit eight fours and a straight six off Tredwell.
Andrea Agathangelou then enjoyed his 40 minutes at the crease, scoring an unbeaten and inventive 51 off 35 balls before the declaration came to leave his bowlers with ten overs to bowl before stumps. The Cypriot hit three fours and two sixes - one straight off Hunn and the other over mid-wicket off Tredwell.
Kent’s first-innings centurion Rob Key is unlikely to bat in the second innings due to a broken left thumb, which he suffered fielding at gully during the early stages of the day.
"The wicket's flattened out to be fair,” added Prince. “Runs are easier to get than the first innings. Hopefully there will be a bit of spin tomorrow. But it's an even contest, maybe slightly favouring the bat at the moment.
"We wanted to leave them with an outside chance of getting the runs. It always helps the fielding team if the batting team believes they can get it. I think if they play well, it's gettable.”
PIctures of Ashwell Prince at Canterbury (c) Barry Mitchell