A REGAL 170 from Zak Crawley helped Kent to 342 for seven on day three of their LV= Insurance County Championship game with Essex at Canterbury, a deficit of 109.

The England man made his highest ever score for Kent, producing an innings of style and brutality as the hosts avoided following on despite four for 141 from Simon Harmer.

Earlier, Nick Browne hit 159 before Essex declared on 451 for five.

Tom Westley made 148 and Michael Pepper was unbeaten on 52, but with 118 overs lost to the weather on days one and two, and the forecast for Sunday looking bleak, the draw now looks the most likely outcome.

For the first time in the match the Spitfire Ground was bathed in sunshine when play began and Essex immediately went on the attack.

Westley drove the first ball of the day through the covers for four but he subsequently perished to an astounding piece of fielding by Daniel Bell-Drummond.

When he hooked Conor McKerr to the square leg boundary it looked almost certain to be a six, but Bell-Drummond managed to grab the ball in mid-air and flick it back from over the rope to Ben Compton.

A mini-collapse ensued as Wes Agar had Paul Walter caught behind for eight before McKerr took a sharp return catch to get Matt Critchley for one.

However, the runs soon began to flow again, with Pepper ramping McKerr for six and Browne driving Jack Leaning through the covers to pass 150.

Leaning eventually had Browne caught on the long off boundary by Jordan Cox, but Essex declared as soon as they had secured the fifth bonus point.

Openers Crawley and Ben Compton moved cautiously to 13 without loss at lunch, after which the former launched an aggressive counter-attack, driving, cutting and even reverse-sweeping his way to his fifth red-ball century for Kent and his first since his 105 against Hampshire in September 2020.

He smashed Harmer back over his head for six to pass 50 and pulled the same bowler through mid-wicket to get to three figures, but an opening stand of 162 ended when Harmer bowled Compton for 46 with a ball that trickled off the foot of his bat before hitting the stumps.

Harmer nearly had Crawley when he was on 130 but Browne put him down at short leg.

Harmer did trap Bell-Drummond lbw for 23 with the final ball of the afternoon session and then had Leaning caught by a tumbling Paul Walter at mid-wicket.

Cox was on 21 when he was dropped by Ben Allison off Doug Bracewell but he failed to cash in, driving the same bowler to Harmer at backward point having added just six more.

Harmer then bowled Sam Billings middle stump for one, and having passed his previous highest score for Kent, 168 against Glamorgan in 2018, Crawley was finally caught behind off Jamie Porter, with Kent still 14 sort of the follow on target.

Joey Evison subsequently edged one past gully to get the hosts within 150, and although Hamid Qadri was caught behind off Matt Critchley for 16, Evison and McKerr batted through to stumps.