Half-centuries from visiting batsmen Hamish Rutherford and Chesney Hughes coupled with an unbeaten 73 by Wayne Madsen ensured that Derbyshire edged into the ascendancy by the mid-point of their Specsavers County Championship clash with Kent.
In response to Kent’s 379 all out, Derbyshire went in at sumps on 291 for three and will go into the third day in Canterbury still trailing by 88 runs.
On a second-day pitch that appears to have lost some of its initial pace and carry, Derbyshire’s top order dug in for steady, if unspectacular run-making against a Kent attack hit by three injuries and shorn of its spearhead, Matt Coles, who had been declared “unavailable for selection”.
Having failed to take a wicket in the 17 overs through to lunch, the hosts at least winkled out two Derbyshire batsmen in the mid-session but still missed the cutting edge of their attack leader Matt Coles.
The 26-year-old had allegedly missed the game due to “personal reasons” but his absence only served to spark rumours aplenty among the Kent membership.
Giving little away regarding Coles’s absence, the county’s chairman of cricket Graham Johnson simply referred to “an ongoing employer/employee situation” as he addressed a lunchtime members’ forum in the Canterbury pavilion.
In the absence of Coles, Kent turned to six bowlers but only the wily Mitch Claydon and James Tredwell enjoyed any success.
Visiting skipper Billy Godleman (33) nicked off to Claydon, as Tom Latham, diving almost behind the keeper Sam Billings, took a superb slip catch to make it 75 for one.
Then, after facing 120 balls for his 65, Hamish Rutherford holed out to Alex Blake at long off to give Tredwell his first scalp of the match.
Having cut the Kent lead to 211 by the tea interval, Derbyshire ploughed on during the evening session as left-hander Chesney Hughes posted a 91-ball 50 with seven fours.
Hughes combined with Wayne Madsen to add 112 in 28.5 overs for the third wicket until Hughes, on 83 from 139 balls, top edged an attempted slog-sweep to send a steepling return catch to Tredwell.
In the next over Madsen reached his half-century milestone from 101 balls and with four fours as dour post-tea events out in the middle vied for attention with the turgid first half to Italy’s Euro 2016 tie with Spain, which was being shown on the TVs around The Spitfire Ground, St Lawrence.
At the start of the day Kent captain Sam Northeast was dismissed nine short of a maiden double hundred as Kent posted 379 all out. The Kent captain improved upon his career best but, with his score on 191, he was caught at long-on when attempting to clear the ropes against spinner Chesney Hughes. He batted for over six hours, faced 266 balls and hit 22 fours.
Kent also lost James Tredwell (12) and Mitch Claydon (4) in the opening hour as the hosts missed out on a fifth batting bonus point by 21 runs.