Recalled opener reaches first first-class hundred before Kent’s late fightback keeps them in it
That was, at least, until a mini-revival from Kent pegged them back: the new ball then helped bring Kent back into it, Darren Stevens taking 2 for 52 and Matt Quinn 2 for 77 as Northants reached the close five down.
Kent lost the toss for the seventh time out of eight this season and they were once again left to rue their luck as the visitors chose to bat, Vasconcelos and Gay exploiting a benign surface to put on 135 for the first wicket.
Kent bowled with some hostility but no real menace and the only breakthrough came in the 26th over when Quinn, having switched to the Nackington Road end, had Vasconcelos caught behind.
The visitors reached 141 for one at lunch and Gay continued to play with measured aggression after the break, passing his previous highest first-class score of 77 by hitting Marcus O’Riordan for six over long-on. He reached three figures when he glanced Jack Leaning to square leg for two, but he was subsequently dismissed by the same bowler without adding to his score, caught behind after slashing at a wide delivery.
Gay, 21, studied at Bedford School and made his first-class debut for Northants towards the end of the 2021 season. He was dropped two games into the season, but was recalled after a run of low scores for Ben Curran for this fixture.
“When I was nearing 100, probably from 80 onwards, I was a bit more nervous than usual,” Gay said. “In twos cricket I don’t really get that nervous but with it being my first [century] I was. Luke [Procter], with his experience just kept fist-bumping me and saying take your time, don’t get ahead of yourself and that definitely helped.
“From a team perspective we couldn’t have wished for a better day, batting first with the sun out. I just think we capitalised really well and built partnerships. Tomorrow morning we’ve still got some work to do: we’ve got to put out foot down and capitalise on what’s been a great day.”
Northants were 246 for 2 at tea and they eased to 314 without further loss before Quinn had Procter lbw in the 82nd over. Stevens then struck twice, luring Rob Keogh into an edge to first slip, where he was caught by Jordan Cox for 38, before sending Adam Rossington’s off stump flying in his next over, bowling him for four.
When Stevens was replaced at the Nackington Road end the pressure eased and Saif Zaib and Tom Taylor batted through the final half hour, reaching 17 and 19 not out respectively at the close.