Richard Gleeson’s career-best figures of 6-79 were not enough to stop Northamptonshire facing a substantial challenge going into the final day of the Specsavers County Championship match against Kent.
Gleeson split his scalps equally between the afternoon and evening sessions, and while Ben Sanderson continued his wicket-taking form with three of his own Kent nevertheless put together a second innings total of 287, setting Northamptonshire a target of 320 for the win.
Gleeson had started the day with the bat, continuing a partnership with Brett Hutton which eventually finished at 49 and went a long way to ensuring that Northamptonshire were still in touch with the promotion-chasing hosts, who turned around 32 runs in front.
Kent extended their advantage to 55 when a double-wicket maiden from Sanderson briefly altered the course of the morning session.
The bearded paceman had Sean Dickson snaffled at second slip then, three balls later, Kent’s experiment to promote Grant Stewart backfired, when the all-rounder glanced a catch to the keeper to depart without scoring.
However Kent then took control as third-wicket partners Zak Crawley and Joe Denly continued to go for their strokes in adding 111 in 25 overs either side of lunch.
But Crawley became bogged down after the interval and departed LBW for 63 when an in-swinging Hutton yorker hit him flush on the boot.
The impressive Gleeson then enjoyed the day’s second double-wicket maiden. After clipping Denly’s off stump with an excellent leg-cutter that sent the right-hander packing when only 19 runs short of his fourth championship ton of the summer, Gleeson o extended Daniel Bell-Drummond’s batting woes by trapping him leg before when off balance for a third-ball duck.
Gleeson then saw off Heino Kuhn (34) and Darren Stevens (14) either side of tea, and Harry Podmore followed suit to give the paceman a deserved five-wicket haul, which became a career-best of six for 79 when Matt Henry, in trying to drop his hands to a short one, gloved a catch through to the keeper.
Henry’s batting was in contrast to his bowling, and he continued where he left off in the first innings by taking the wickets of youngster Ben Curran and opening partner Luke Procter. These wickets have put the Kiwi international in sight of a 10-wicket haul for the match, and emphasised his place as the top bowler in Division 2, if not the whole Specsavers County Championship.
Kent’s first-change seamer Grant Stewart swung one through the gate of Ricardo Vasconcelos to peg back off stump, but Alex Wakely and Richard Levi dug in to bat out the remaining 10 overs through to the close.