Warwickshire Bears v Kent Spitfires
Yorkshire Bank 40 – Group A, 6 May, 1.45pm start, Edgbaston, Birmingham
The Kent Spitfires open their Yorkshire Bank 40 campaign with a Bank Holiday Monday trip to Edgbaston to take on the Warwickshire Bears.
The pair have been placed in qualifying Group A alongside the Netherlands, Northants Steelbacks, Sussex Sharks, Nottinghamshire Outlaws and Worcestershire Royals. The seven teams play each other twice, home and away, with the table-topping side guaranteed a place in the semi-final stages. The best runner-up across the three groups will also qualify for the final four with the final being held at Lord’s on Saturday, 21 September.
Last season Kent narrowly missed out on a semi-berth in the CB40 competition on the final day of qualifying fixtures and will be looking to go one better this season. The Club met Monday’s opponents in Group C last year and it was the Spitfires who overcame the Bears at Edgbaston. The home side had no answer to the strict lines of Kent seam bowlers Mark Davies and Azhar Mahmood as they slumped to 15-4. Then medium-pacer Darren Stevens returned fine figures of 4-25 to mop up the tail as Warwickshire succumbed to 92 all-out.
Kent lost four wickets on their way to reaching a victory target that was never really in doubt. Azhar completed a fine all-round performance, scoring an unbeaten twenty to see the Spitfires home with 118 balls to spare.
Opening batsman Sam Billings is set to be given his first outing of the season. The right-hander was in dazzling form last season in 40-over cricket. He amassed 315 runs to top the Kent run-scoring charts, including a stunning 143 off 113 balls against Derbyshire at Canterbury. The 21 year-old is clearly looking forward to getting back involved:
“I cannot wait to get started. I'm itching to get out there and we start the YB40 with trips to two Test match grounds so that's something to look forward to for us players and the members and supporters too. Individually it was a good season for me last year and I've definitely got something to build on going into this season. We also did well as a team and came so close to qualifying in both one-day competitions.”
After narrowly missing out on qualification last season, Billings is confident the Spitfires can push on to success this time around and says he feels in good form himself:
“We are all confident. We've got a good, well balanced one-day side and I'm hopeful that we can enjoy another good year in the YB40. We believe that we can compete in all three formats. I'm feeling good. I've recently had a bit of time in the middle (with the second team) and got some starts. I've got some 30s and 40s. I'm now looking forward to really pushing on. I really enjoy opening the innings. Its the best place to bat as the ball comes on beautifully. I guess there is some pressure on you because the team naturally wants you to do well but I really enjoy the challenge.”
Warwickshire made it to the CB40 final last season, only to be beaten by Hampshire off the final ball and Billings is well aware of the tough task ahead:
“They're a good side and put in some quality performances last year. They did very well in this competition and won the championship so we know that they will be very competitive again.”
Team news to follow.