Key keeps Kent in contention

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Rob Key

Rob Key defied Surrey's bowlers to keep Kent's fading hopes of victory alive at the Kia Oval. The skipper ended the third day unbeaten on 144

Surrey’s LV= County Championship clash with Kent hangs in the balance heading into the final day at the Kia Oval after a century by visiting captain Rob Key left his side needing 52 runs for victory with just two wickets remaining.

While three of his team-mates needlessly tossed away their wickets, former England batsman Key played sublimely to score the 44th hundred of his career and help Kent to 270 for eight at stumps on day three.

Key featured in three significant stands and survived an additional half-hour’s play to go into the deciding day unbeaten on 144 alongside ninth-wicket partner Robbie Joseph.

Chasing 322 to secure only the third victory of their Division Two campaign, Kent lost Joe Denly to the eighth ball of the reply, the right-hander dragging an off-cutter from Tim Linley onto his leg stump.

After reaching 18, Sam Northeast then played across the line of Gareth Batty’s final ball before lunch to become the 10th lbw victim of the match.

Martin van Jaarsveld and Key joined forces to add 109 in 29 overs.

Key reached an 83-ball half-century, but soon after van Jaarsveld went for 35, gloving Linley’s leg-side long-hop to the wicketkeeper.

Three overs later, Darren Stevens became Zafar Ansari’s maiden championship scalp when he missed an ambitious sweep and was trapped lbw to make it 149 for four at tea.

Key marched on to his 39th century for Kent - and his first of the season - from 163 balls and added 67 with Geraint Jones before the latter lost his concentration, and his wicket.

Charging down the pitch and aiming to dispatch a delivery from Batty into the pavilion, Jones was caught behind off a thin edge that counterpart Steve Davies clung on to at the second attempt.

Alex Blake contributed a breezy 26 before shouldering arms to a Batty arm ball that grazed off stump, while Wahab Riaz flayed haplessly at his fourth ball from Linley and spooned a catch to cover.

With eight extra overs to bowl, and seven with the new ball, Surrey snapped up David Balcombe when he fenced at a short one from Linley and steered it to slip to tip the balance firmly in Surrey’s favour.

Earlier, Kent took just over an hour of the morning to session to take Surrey’s three remaining second-innings wickets as the hosts eventually reached 184.

Balcombe, on loan for the month from Hampshire, finished with 5-63 on his Kent debut.

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