Kent’s hopes of surviving the fourth day at Beckenham were boosted by a dogged batting display in the final 17 overs against Surrey as the hosts went in at stumps on 46 for one – needing a further 380 to beat Specsavers County Championship rivals Surrey.
After dismissing to Surrey for 280 second time around, Kent, in pursuit of 426 for a second win of the campaign, lost only Zak Crawley during final blows and counterblows of day three.
Pushing just outside off at one from Morne Morkel, Crawley edged to slip to go for nine, leaving first innings century-maker Sean Dickson and Adam Riley, Kent’s night watchman to see their side through to the close without further damage.
In stark contrast to Tuesday night’s brief, yet wayward new-ball burst, Kent’s opening bowlers Darren Stevens and Matt Milnes had been right on the money in restricting the visitors to only 34 runs in the opening hour of day three.
Kent struck in the third over of the day with a classic dismissal from ageless all-rounder Stevens. Running one away from the defensive push of left-handed Rory Burns, Stevens feathered the edge for a regulation catch to the keeper.
Eight runs on, Mark Stoneman (13) steered a Milnes leg-cutter to Adam Riley at third slip bringing together hugely experienced third-wicket partners Dean Elgar and Scott Borthwick.
Stevens gave way after a testing spell of 8-4-11-1 to be replaced at the Beckenham End by off-spinner Adam Riley while Milnes was replaced by Harry Podmore after bowling 7-2-24-1 from the City End.
The change worked when Podmore stuck with his eighth ball, snaring Dean Elgar leg before after the South Africa left-hander missed a back-foot defensive push.
Having lunched on 85/3, Ben Foakes (44) drove at one from Podmore that bounced and took the edge for a catch behind the stumps.
Borthwick squeezed a back-foot force against Riley onto leg stump via an inside edge and the inside of his knee, then Will Jacks, fresh from his maiden first-class ton in the first innings, edged a leg glance against Mulder to a tumbling Ollie Robinson.
Through it all, Sam Curran hit three fours and as many sixes in an 84-ball 50 that took the visitors into tea with a 357-run lead.
With his score on 80 off 119 balls, Curran tossed away his wicket with a loose pull to long-on against Milnes to spark a minor collapse that saw Surrey lose their last four wickets for 19 runs.
Gareth Batty heaved across the line to go leg before to Podmore, Rikki Clarke’s mistimed back-foot defensive offered Milnes a simple return catch then Conor McKerr lost leg pole to a Milnes in-swinger as Surrey finally succumbed after 79.5 overs.
Milnes finished as Kent’s top wicket-taker with four for 74 while Podmore took three for 66.
Milnes said: “It’s tough work bowling because it’s still a very good pitch, but I felt we stuck together well as a unit today.
“Wiaan bowled a lovely nine-over spell in the middle and we all worked around that.
“We’ve started all three days really well. We’re learning from these three days because there’s no mismatch in skill, it’s just that Surrey have been that little bit better for longer periods.
“We’re a young side, four of five of us are still learning on the job and already we’ve taken things on board from this performance.
“As for tomorrow the first hour is crucial and we have to get through that first session with as few losses as possible.
“Then, you never know where we might be, come the tea break if we play the spinner well. We batted nicely tonight and will want to stay positive tomorrow.
“We’re certainly not out of it and, even if we don’t win it, I still feel that we’re capable of playing through for a draw.”
Credit: ECB Reporters’ Network