Kent’s outside chances of overhauling Division 2 leaders Essex evaporated after suffering their second defeat of the Specsavers County Championship campaign by 10 wickets to Northamptonshire in Beckenham.
Needing a fourth successive win to maintain pressure on their neighbours from across the Thames estuary, Kent capitulated inside three days to a Northamptonshire side still buoyed from winning last month’s NatWest T20 Blast title.
From the moment visiting skipper Alex Wakely went down the route of an uncontested toss to bowl first on a humid and overcast opening day, Kent were outgunned with both bat and ball with Northamptonshire fully deserving of their 23-point win. Kent banked only four points, effectively downgrading their final match of the season, at home to Essex later in the month, to a dead rubber.
Resuming on their parlous overnight score of 15 for four and needing 154 simply to make Northamptonshire bat again, Kent got off to a shaky start and had lost their skipper Sam Northeast within half-an-hour.
Aiming to drive through the off side, Northeast edged to keeper David Murphy to give Ben Sanderson his second wicket of the match.
Sam Billings, who only arrived in Kent at 3am after driving from Manchester overnight having been 12th man for England’s T20I against Pakistan, came to the crease to partner night watchman Hardus Viljoen.
The tall South Africa strike bowler soon showed his abilities with the bat by hooking Sanderson for four on his way to a classy 97-ball 50 with five fours.
He and Billings added 84 inside 20 overs for the sixth wicket before Viljoen, on 63 and nine short of his career-best, aimed to cut a wide one from Steven Crook only succeeded in edging to Ben Duckett at slip.
Then, in the lunch over, Billings (39), in trying to withdraw the bat against Crook chopped on to the base of off stump to trudge back to the pavilion with his side still 41 behind in the game.
Darren Stevens combined with Will Gidman to wipe out the arrears after lunch but Kleinveldt returned at the Northern End to take his fifth wicket, that of Gidman, who sparred at a lifter to be caught behind at the second attempt by David Murphy.
Kent’s No10 Matt Coles was lured into an expansive drive by spinner Rob Keogh only to toe-end the ball onto leg stump then, with his score on 44, Stevens aimed to clear the leg-side ropes against Keogh only to pick out Wakely at deep backward square leg.
Keogh took two for five from his 16 balls, but Kleinveldt finished as the clear pick of the visiting attack with five for 53.
Northamptonshire duly knocked off the 31 runs required to secure their third win of the summer with four sessions of the game in hand. Fittingly it was Duckett, the batsman who had played the match-defining innings with a double hundred on day two, who nurdled the winning run with e leg-side single soon after 3pm.
Victorious Northamptonshire skipper Wakely said: “That was more or less one of our most complete performances of the season. Earlier in the summer I felt we were playing bit-part cricket at times and doing some disciplines well but not quite executing the others, whereas in the last couple of games things have gone perfectly.