Kent are well positioned to win at Hove for the first time since 1992 after they dominated Sussex for the second day running in the Specsavers County Championship.
Their only disappointment came when Will Gidman was stranded on 99 not out in a total of 496 which gave them a first-innings lead of 316. At stumps Sussex were 42 for two, still 274 runs behind.
Gidman, who is on loan from Nottinghamshire, batted for nearly six hours and had reached 94 when he was joined by last man Mitch Claydon. The No.11 looked fairly secure as Gidman inched towards what would have been his first century for two years until Claydon drove Steve Magoffin’s slower ball to mid-off to give the Australian his fifth wicket of the innings.
The pitch had certainly lost the venom which had seen 15 wickets fall on the first day and Gidman led the way as Kent progressed serenely in ideal batting conditions as they pressed for a victory which would keep the pressure on Division Two leaders Essex.
Gidman shared two big stands of 100 for the sixth wicket with first Darren Stevens (79) and then a more rumbustious alliance of 115 for the eighth in 25 overs with Matt Coles, whose powerful hitting also made sure Kent secured maximum batting points.
The all-rounder took 16 off an over from left-arm spinner Danny Briggs as Kent reached 400 with seven balls to spare, and against a tiring attack, Coles looked set for a century until he mis-cued to long-off for 70, made from 87 balls with five fours and two sixes, one over long on and the other pulled into the pavilion, both off Briggs. Coles had earlier reached 2,000 first-class runs when he’d made four.
Gidman, who scored the majority of his runs on the leg side, offered one chance with three to his name early in the day when Luke Wells, diving forward at point, just failed to hold onto a mis-timed cut but otherwise remained unruffled as he lodged his third successive Championship fifty. When he walked off at the end he’d batted for 12 minutes shy of six hours and hit ten fours from 240 balls faced.
It was a tiring day for the Sussex attack but at least the evergreen Magoffin had the 23rd five-wicket haul of his first-class career to celebrate. Having dismissed Kent’s top three on the first day, he struck immediately with the second new ball when uprooting Stevens’ middle stump.
Sussex had to face 14 overs but failed to get through unscathed. Tom Haines, their 17-year-old debutant, played nicely until he gloved a ball down the leg side from Hardus Viljoen for 11 and in the final over of the day night-watchman Ajmal Shahzad was athletically caught by wicketkeeper Sam Billings, diving high to his left.
Despite being left one short of his ton, Gidman was in high spirits: "It was a bit unfortunate not to get to a hundred. Mitch Claydon did his best and I should probably have had a whack earlier on to be honest, but I was pleased with the innings. It would have been nice to get over the line but it wasn’t to be.
"I’m fortunate to have been given the opportunity by Kent to play a bit of cricket and I’m just glad to be able to repay them with a few runs. I’m really enjoying the loan spell, mainly because I'm playing with a great bunch of boys who have been very welcoming."