Azhar gives Kent hope

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Azhar Mahmood

Azhar Mahmood's unbeaten half-century helped Kent extend their lead to 231 going into the final day against Middlesex at Canterbury

Kent all-rounder Azhar Mahmood posted his third half-century of the LV= County Championship season to help set up an intriguing final day against Middlesex at Canterbury.

Rob Key’s side closed on 292 for six with Azhar unbeaten on 69 in tandem with James Tredwell, who had made 10 not out – representing a lead of 231.

Azhar went to the wicket with Kent seemingly in trouble on 168 for five – just 107 ahead – yet he and Geraint Jones joined forces to add 93 useful runs for the sixth wicket.

Having finally dismissed the visitors for 303, to concede a first-innings deficit of 61, Kent had wiped only 33 off the arrears when they lost opener Key for 16.

Pushing with firm hands and no discernable foot movement, the captain edged behind off Corey Collymore.

Two balls later Sam Northeast departed for one when he nicked a Steven Finn leg-cutter and was well held low down at third slip by Sam Robson.

Joe Denly and Martin van Jaarsveld teamed up to add 54 in level-headed fashion before Denly, three short of a deserved fifty, was drawn into the drive by Finn and caught in the gully.

Soon after the tea interval van Jaarsveld – without a championship century this summer – had his middle and off stumps rearranged by Tim Murtagh after reaching 66,

With their side seemingly in trouble, Azhar and Jones ensured Middlesex would have a sizeable last-day run-chase. Finn returned late in the day to pluck out Jones’ off stump after the wicketkeeper-batsman had made 45.

Kent required a little more than an hour this morning to take the three remaining Middlesex wickets in the space of 14 overs.

It took the second new ball and a double bowling change to finally break a doughty eighth-wicket stand between Dawid Malan and Murtagh.

Murtagh fell to the fifth ball of the day from Darren Stevens. Attempting to pull, he skied to wicketkeeper Jones, who ran forward to claim the catch at the striker’s end.

Left-hander Malan fell for 68 when he edged a cut off Wahab Riaz's third delivery of the morning to James Tredwell at slip.

Finn clipped four off his legs against Riaz to take Middlesex past 300 for a third batting bonus point, but he perished when top-edging an attempted pull to mid-on to give Riaz figures of 3-52 on his farewell appearance for Kent.

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