ALEX Gidman and Hamish Marshall dug in with the bat Gloucestershire a fantastic chance of beating Kent and claiming their first County Championship win of the season
Having emerged from their first four Second Division games with two defeats and a brace of draws, Gloucestershire are overdue a positive result at the Bristol County Ground.
That they finally find themselves in a position to break their winless sequence owes much to the strength of character demonstrated by senior batsmen Gidman and Marshall.
The pair staged a defiant stand of 135 in 41 overs for the fourth wicket to ensure their side reached the halfway stage of an absorbing contest firmly in the driving seat.
Thanks to their considerable efforts, Gloucestershire reached the close on 213 for four, already 351 runs to the good and well-set to apply further pressure with two days still available to them.
The showers that are forecast in the West raise the prospect of a rather less satisfactory outcome but, granted fair weather, Gloucestershire are certainly in a position to end their drought.
Gidman and Marshall came together with the score on 58 four three and Gloucestershire once again in danger of falling short with the bat.
But when their side needed it most, these two demonstrated steadfast resolve to dig in and claim the initiative.
Although not at his best and unable to score fluently, Gidman fought manfully to chisel 85 valuable runs from 128 balls. In the context of what had gone before – 23 wickets fell in five sessions – his defiance could yet have a profound influence on the final outcome.
He required 77 balls to pass 50 and crucially for Gloucestershire, the former England A batsman went on to add to his score rather than succumb to the loss of concentration and poor shot selection that bedevilled so many batsmen on the opening day.
The fourth wicket partnership realised three figures in 31 overs and Marshall raised 50 from 110 deliveries with his seventh four, caressed through the covers off the bowling of Adam Riley.
By the time Gidman top-edged a pull shot to mid-wicket to provide Darren Stevens with a much-needed breakthrough, the home side were 331 runs in front at 193 for four..
Marshall is still there on 66 not out and he and Gareth Roderick (13 not out) will look to extend the lead beyond 400 in the morning.
Gloucestershire’s top-order batsmen had earlier found the going far from easy against the new ball and some accurate seam bowling from Mitchell Claydon and Stevens.
Once again, openers Michael Klinger and Chris Dent suffered failures, both departing for single figures as the visitors made early in-roads.
Unable to move his feet, skipper Klinger was pinned leg before playing half forward to Claydon for four, while left-hander Dent dragged a ball from Stevens onto his stumps having made heavy weather of scoring eight.
Stevens then produced a decent in-swinging delivery to bowl Will Tavare between bat and pad for 27 to keep the visitors in contention.
Kent resumed on 33 for six in the morning, needing another 70 runs to avoid the follow-on. Their chances of doing so were dealt a blow when Riley departed to the third ball of the day, edging a full-length delivery from Will Gidman to wicketkeeper Roderick without scoring.
It was left to Adam Ball and Sam Billings to restore a semblance of normality to proceedings, the eighth wicket pair staging a recovery of sorts in a stand of 68 in 21 overs to at least ensure the visitors avoided the ignominy of following on.
Will Gidman was the pick of the bowlers, returning figures of four for 14 from 12 outstanding overs, while James Fuller weighed-in with four for 32.