Prolific Sales leaves Northants on the brink
David Sales moved past 14,000 first-class runs as he helped Northamptonshire enhance their promotion bid on the final day of their LV= County Championship Division Two clash with Kent that ended as a draw.
The evergreen batsman compiled a superb 110 from 192 balls, while all-rounder James Middlebrook also hit a century.
Middlebrook added another 22 runs to his overnight 87 to add a season-best batting performance to a career-best bowling effort of 6-78 in Kent's total of 418 all out.
And Alex Wakely also cashed in with 55 from 79 balls, meaning each of Northamptonshire's top four – Stephen Peters made 68 on day three – had passed 50.
Their efforts helped the home side rack up a total of 431 for five before declaring, claiming maximum batting bonus points to leave them needing five points at Worcestershire next week to guarantee the second promotion spot.
Rivals Essex, who drew with Glamorgan at Chelmsford, are 20 points adrift going into their final match at Hampshire.
Northamptonshire had begun day four on 183 for one after good work from Middlebrook, Peters and Sales had put them in a good position.
Middlebrook had looked extremely accomplished on his way to an unbeaten 87 the previous evening and he brought up his century from 168 balls.
But the 36-year-old, registering his highest score of the season, eventually fell for 109, edging Adam Ball's delivery into the hands of Sam Billings at slip.
Sales, 35, continued to fly, though, and made his way to the half-century mark with a single off Darren Stevens.
New batsman Wakely opened things up a bit with a couple of fours and a six before being given a reprieve by Ball's failure to pouch a Stevens delivery.
Wakely was to make the most of that let-off as he continued to smash the ball around the ground, racking up a well-earned 50 inside 59 balls.
He was to perish for 55, Charlie Shreck trapping the Northamptonshire man lbw, but not before Sales had steadily made his way to a century, his 29th in the first-class game.
The 35-year-old was to depart soon after as Shreck, who finished the innings with 2-80, had him caught by Billings.
But that did not stop Northamptonshire claiming the full batting bonus points they desired as Rob Keogh’s unbeaten 32 and Andrew Hall's 35 got them past the 400 mark.
Hall was dismissed by Ben Harmison after tea but Keogh and Matt Spriegel, who finished unbeaten on eight, saw their side past Kent's total before the declaration came.