On a day where, for the majority of it, Kent toiled with little reward against some belligerent Gloucestershire batting, Matt Henry once again outlined why he must be considered the best overseas signing of the season with a wonderful spell of bowling to give his team a chance of a fourth successive Championship win.
They will of course have to come out on the final day’s play and take all ten Gloucestershire second innings wickets on a pitch that is offering little. It will be particularly difficult with seamer Harry Podmore going off late in the day to what looked a nasty injury.
The draw probably the most likely result at this stage.
Though with a bowler of Henry’s calibre in their ranks, Kent will remain confident of forcing a win that could see them move to the top of Division Two with Warwickshire facing a tough run chase against Glamorgan.
Henry’s day began being driven nicely to the boundary by Jack Taylor from just his third ball. He would soon have his revenge though, forcing the Gloucestershire batsmen to bottom-edge onto his stumps for 33.
New man Ryan Higgins didn’t last much longer, the former Middlesex all-rounder being beaten by one that nipped in on him, crashing into the off-stump. Arguably the delivery of the day from Henry, which left Gloucestershire 82-6 still trailing by a massive 500 runs.
After his first spell we wouldn’t see the New Zealander again until mid-afternoon with the second new ball, in which he would return to end a partnership of 104 between Gloucestershire all-rounders Graeme van Buuren and Kieran Noema-Barnett, causing van Buuren to edge to Heino Kuhn at second slip for 83.
Eight overs later Henry would claim two more victims, trapping Craig Miles lbw before having George Drissell caught by Zak Crawley at third slip the very next ball.
Two devastating deliveries that neither man could do much about. The pair being Henry’s 42nd and 43rd wickets of what has been quite an extraordinary season.
In between Henry’s heroics, the other Kent bowlers had been frustrated on a flat pitch, which was not turning as much as you might expect from a used wicket.
Both van Buuren and Noema-Barnett playing the sensible knocks required in a game their side was trying to save.
Just eight runs were added in as many overs at the start of their partnership. Though at least the hosts were making things difficult for their opponents after a pretty poor display of batting thus far, Noema-Barnett bringing up the Gloucestershire hundred in Adam Riley’s first over of the day.
The pair batted for twenty overs before lunch to frustrate a Kent attack that would have hoped for more wickets after the success Henry had enjoyed earlier in the day. It was slow going for the most part but back to back boundaries for van Buuren off Riley did at least move the scoring rate along. The all-rounder just short of his fifty at lunch with his team 124-6.
It didn’t take him long to reach the milestone, coming in the second over after the interval. A 96-ball effort, which was vital under the circumstances.
In the same over, the partnership between van Buuren and Noema-Barnett passed fifty and for the first time in their innings the Gloucestershire batsmen actually looked at ease.
Noema-Barnett not allowing spinner Riley to settle, nonchalantly hitting him for consecutive boundaries down the ground.
What followed was period of cat and mouse before the second new ball, both batsmen happy just to keep the Kent attack at bay, not wanting to expose the tail to the dangerous Henry.
Their hundred partnership for the seventh wicket came up in the 81st. Though Henry would return to break it in the next over, and take two further Gloucestershire wickets.
Noema-Barnett finished not out on 73, his initial fifty coming up with a streaky edge for four. He would add 36 with Matt Taylor for the tenth wicket, until Joe Denly induced a small edge from Taylor that Rouse sharply took down the leg-side with the hosts dismissed for 240.
Unsurprisingly Kent enforced the follow-on with 25 overs still remaining in the day and would have wanted to reduce their opponents to something similar to the 5-3 they had them in their first innings the night before.
Henry stormed in again, unlucky not to add to his haul of 6-58 he’d completed earlier in the day.
In fairness to both Chris Dent and Benny Howell, both played well in the circumstances taking Gloucestershire to 73-0 at the close.
Howell the more aggressive of the openers, two lovely drives off Stevens early in his innings, the highlight of his 44 not out.
Dent was happy to be more watchful, himself finishing the day on 27. His side still in arrears by 269 runs but in with a chance of securing a draw.