Northamptonshire 237 and 214 for 5 (Keogh 57, Procter 52) trail Kent 621 (Bell-Drummond 300*, Russell 6-175) by 170 runs
Bell-Drummond finished unbeaten on exactly 300, registering the fourth-highest individual score in Kent’s history after almost nine hours at the crease as the visitors racked up an imposing total of 621.
Resuming on 271 overnight, Bell-Drummond survived a strong lbw appeal by Ben Sanderson in the second over of the day and made cautious progress while his partners threw the bat at the other end. A delicate late cut for two off Russell propelled him beyond John Freeman’s 286 for Essex more than a century earlier – the previous highest score registered by an opposition player at Wantage Road.
However, wickets began to tumble to the young spinner, with Joey Evison lured down the track and stumped for 27 before Hamid Qadri and Wes Agar also perished in pursuit of quick runs.
With Jack White trapping Matt Quinn leg before first ball, Bell-Drummond, on 293, suddenly looked in danger of ending up marooned with a personal landmark tantalisingly close as last man Arshdeep Singh arrived at the crease.
The India international calmly swung his first delivery over long-on for two before smashing a couple of boundaries as Bell-Drummond inched closer to 300 – eventually pulling Russell for a single and punching the air with delight and relief.
Having slammed the next ball into the hands of deep midwicket, Arshdeep raced off to lace up his bowling boots as he and Agar hurtled in for a pre-lunch burst at Northamptonshire’s openers.
They removed both before the interval, with Emilio Gay prodding Arshdeep to Jack Leaning at second slip before the skipper’s call for Joe Denly’s legbreaks paid dividends as Ricardo Vasconcelos departed in the same manner to the final ball of the session.
Sam Whiteman displayed some resistance after lunch, crunching Agar for successive off-side boundaries to reach 28, but Denly tempted him to sweep and the resulting top edge sailed to backward square. Denly, who remained on throughout most of the afternoon, might have collected a third wicket when Ben Compton was unable to grasp a sharp chance from Keogh at short leg with the right-hander on 18.
Keogh gradually got on top of Kent’s all-spin attack, taking advantage of some wayward Denly deliveries to crack three fours in an over and sweeping Qadri to the square leg fence to bring up his half-century on the cusp of tea.
There was a scare for Keogh when a ball from Qadri lodged in his back pad and then trickled across to rest against the stumps without dislodging a bail, but the spinner got his man soon afterwards for 57, winning what looked a very marginal lbw decision.
That broke the fourth-wicket stand of 80, but Procter progressed to a resolute 50 from 146 balls and, with Saif Zaib going for his shots at the other end, the pair shaved another 51 off the deficit. Leaning brought himself on to bowl and promptly pinned Procter leg before with his second delivery, but murky overhead conditions forced the players from the field just a few overs later.