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Blake blast seals Spitfires quarter-final spot

Sunday 12th July 2015

Alex Blake smashed an unbeaten 59 off just 24 balls as Kent made sure of a place in the NatWest T20 Blast quarter-finals with a three-wicket win over Gloucestershire at Cheltenham. The powerful left-hander hit four sixes and five fours to see his side to a target of 167 with two balls to spare. Skipper Sam Northeast contributed 49 and Joe Denly 31, while Craig Miles claimed three for 27. Gloucestershire had posted 166 for seven after losing the toss, Michael Klinger strengthening his position as the competition's leading run-maker with 75 from 50 balls, with seven fours and two sixes. Mitchell Claydon was the most successful Kent bowler with three wickets for 27 runs and Fabian Cowdrey picked up 2-22 including the scalp of Klinger. Klinger's runs took his aggregate in the South Group to 653 at an average of 108.83. But, while leaders Kent can now look forward to the knock-out stages, Gloucestershire face elimination. The hosts suffered a setback in the second over of their innings when Hamish Marshall, who had already moved to 11, was forced to retire hurt with a recurrence of a calf injury. Ian Cockbain joined Klinger and the pair took the score to 36 in the fifth over when the former was caught behind off Claydon for 11. Klinger and fellow Australian Peter Handscomb then added 79 in 9.1 overs, Klinger moving to his half-century off 34 balls, with five fours and a six over square leg off Calum Haggett. Handscomb fell for 28, bowled by Fabian Cowdrey attempting to sweep, but Klinger deposited the left-arm spinner over wide long-on for his second six before departing in the same over, the 17th, to a catch at backward point. From then on Gloucestershire lost momentum as Geraint Jones, Jack Taylor, Benny Howell and Tom Smith were dismissed in the closing overs, Claydon and Matt Coles sharing the wickets. The Kent reply was given a brisk start by Joe Denly, who smashed the fourth ball of the innings from Craig Miles back over his head for a straight six and registered another maximum in the third over off Liam Norwell. But Gloucestershire struck two blows in the power play as Daniel Bell-Drummond was caught behind driving at Miles and Denly fell lbw to James Fuller, having hit 31 off 18 balls. Sam Billings had made only five when attempting to reverse sweep the first ball sent down by left-arm spinner Tom Smith, the competition's leading wicket-taker, and being brilliantly caught above his head at full stretch by Howell at backward point. Darren Stevens became the first man to 3,000 runs in domestic T20 cricket before he and Cowdrey departed. Captain Northeast was still there and when big-hitting Blake came in to launch sixes off Howell and Smith, the game seemed to be tilting Kent's way. The 17th over, bowled by Miles, saw the Kent skipper depart one short of his half-century, caught on the mid-wicket boundary with 36 still needed. But Blake responded with another six and three fours off the next over from Norwell to virtually settle the outcome and ended the game by clearing the ropes for the fourth time. Click here for the scorecard: