Rob Key’s first LV= County Championship century in nearly 16 months helped Kent’s cricketers prosper on the opening day of their clash with Division Two leaders Lancashire at Canterbury.
On an overcast day when 26 overs were lost to rain and bad light, Kent’s top-order flourished against a weakened and lethargic Red Rose attack to post 235 for three.
Veteran batsman Key hit a season’s best 113 and featured in stands worth 72 with Daniel Bell-Drummond (37) and then 149 with Joe Denly (65) on a generally overcast day when Lancashire clearly expected ball to dominate bat.
Without three key members of their pace attack - including the division’s leading wicket-taker in Kyle Jarvis as well as their overseas professional James Faulkner, both with fractured hands - Lancashire elected to field first when play started on time at 10.30am.
However, only 28 balls were bowled during an intermittent opening session before the players, with Kent on seven without loss, fled for cover from a heavy shower for an early lunch just after noon.
Key might have gone for three, when Alviro Petersen downed a slip catch off Glen Chapple with the home total on 23 without loss, yet Kent’s only casualty of the opening two sessions came after 28.3 overs.
With his score on 37 after 103 minutes at the crease Bell-Drummond, walking across his stumps and aiming to leg, was trapped lbw by a Tom Bailey off-cutter.
Key scored only four boundaries in his patient 116-ball 50, two of which came with straight drives in successive overs from left-arm spinner Simon Kerrigan, as Key and Denly set out their stall to bat time.
Denly reached his 79-ball 50 with a sweetly-timed leg-side clip off Chapple for his eighth boundary, while Key reached three figures with an all-run four after straight driving the same bowler. The ton came off 179 balls and included 11 fours, 10 of them boundaries.
It was Key’s first championship century since May 5 last year when he scored 126 in the win over Surrey.
It was also the 36-year-old right-hander’s 24th first-class hundred on the ground for Kent, where he is comfortably the county’s leading run-scorer with almost 8,000 runs to his name.
Bad light took the players off for a fourth time shortly before 5pm and Key and Denly both perished soon after the resumptions half-an hour later.
Denly, playing late to the skiddy pace of Jordan Clark, departed lbw for 65 then Key, after 201 balls, fenced at a Clark lifter and spooned a comfortable catch to gully off the shoulder of the bat.
Lancashire might have finished the day on an even bigger high had Karl Brown held onto a sharp slip chance offered by home skipper Sam Northeast when on four, but the opportunity, off the bowling of Clark, went to ground allowing Northeast and nightwatchman James Tredwell to bat out the three remaining overs through to stumps.