Northamptonshire’s Ben Duckett returned to his roots to score a sublime double hundred on a stunning day of cut-and-thrust Specsavers County Championship cricket in Beckenham.
Having been pummelled by Duckett’s jabs, uppercuts and drives Kent’s punch-drunk attack hauled themselves off the canvas to bag Northamptonshire’s last six wickets inside 13 overs and ensure they would bat again before the close.
But, in the face of a first innings deficit of 154, the hosts lost Daniel Bell-Drummond (0), Sean Dickson (3), Joe Denly (0) and night watchman James Tredwell (1) during an inspired spell of four for eight in 21 balls by Rory Kleinveldt to reach the mid-point of the game reeling once more on 15 for four - to trail by 139 going into day three.
Born in Farnborough, just six miles from this outground in the leafy suburbs of metropolitan Kent, Duckett further enhanced his burgeoning reputation by virtually outscoring the hosts single-handedly.
It was a brilliant innings, crammed with sharp, staccato movement of the feet, allied to exquisite top-hand control and placement that led to the ball piercing the field some 26 times during a 251-ball stay. Little wonder that Northamptonshire have already offered the compact left-hander a deal beyond his current contract that expires at the end of 2017.
Though Kent’s attack enjoyed humidity and cloud cover for the opening hour, they experienced little or no luck before the sunshine arrived at noon as if to provide Duckett with his spotlight.
The introduction of Mitch Claydon at the Northern End paid immediate dividends when he got one to lift on Rob Newton and graze the edge allowing Callum Jackson, Kent’s stand-in keeper, to mark his 22 nd birthday with a catch.
Duckett and Wakely dug in thereafter, Duckett reaching a 79-ball 50, while Wakely enjoyed a life on 27 when Darren Stevens downed a sharp, overhead chance at short mid-on off the bowling of Will Gidman.
The Northamptonshire skipper appeared to enjoy another let off shortly after the resumption when on 46. Prodding at a Claydon off-cutter that thudded into his left pad, but umpire Neil Bainton turned down Kent’s concerted lbw appeal.
To add to Claydon’s high dudgeon, Wakely then clipped to the mid-wicket ropes to reach a 90-ball 50 with 10 fours.
Duckett posted his fourth Championship century of the summer with his first false stroke, a thick edge through a vacant second slip off the bowling of James Tredwell. His hundred came off 149-balls and included 12 fours.
As if to reinforce his class, Duckett then moved into overdrive. Driving consecutive boundaries off paceman Viljoen, he then flipped his hands to switch hit Tredwell for four to third man followed by a conventional sweep to the ropes at mid-wicket.
Wakely also tried to up the tempo but, with his side still two runs in arrears, fell into Matt Coles’s leg theory trap by hooking a bouncer into the hands of Will Gidman at long leg to end a second-wicket stand worth 171 in 37 overs.
Claydon eased Kent’s woes with a brace of wickets in the space of four deliveries with near identical deliveries. Rob Keogh (18), on the back-foot in defence, nicked a leg-cutter to second slip then, six runs on and in Claydon’s next over, Richard Levi followed suit with his side 37 runs ahead.
Duckett reached his second double hundred of the Championship campaign soon after tea from 240 balls with consecutive fours against Coles. He also beat Jock Livingstone’s 200, scored at Maidstone in 1954, to become Northamptonshire’s top individual run-scorer against Kent.
His magical stay ended after five and three-quarter hours when he feathered a defensive push against Coles for Tredwell to pocket a sharp, low catch at slip.
His demise sparked something of a collapse as Northamptonshire lost their last six wickets for 37 runs to the second new ball, Viljoen and Claydon bagging three wickets apiece and Stevens two.
Northamptonshire's double centurion Ben Duckett said his innings was right up there with his best ever. "I was 178 at tea and told myself to graft for those other 20-odd runs and I think you could see how happy I was to get there," he said.