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CB40 Match Preview: Kent Spitfires v Northants Steelbacks, Sunday 10th June, The Nevill

Friday 8th June 2012

Men’s First Team

Kent Spitfires v Northamptonshire Steelbacks, CB40 – Group C

Nevill Ground, Tunbridge Wells, Sunday, 10th June 2012 – 1.45pm

The 100th Tunbridge Wells Festival Week continues on Sunday with Kent welcoming Northamptonshire Steelbacks to the Nevill Ground for another crucial CB40 Group C clash.

There is plenty of cricket left to play in the group stages, but every game is proving crucial for both teams. The Spitfires are currently well positioned in third place, three points off leaders Warwickshire who have played a game more. Kent inflicted the Bears' first defeat of the season at Canterbury last Friday. Northants, on the other hand, have yet to fire in this season’s competition; they have yet to claim a win from their opening five matches and prop up the table. On Sunday, a win is imperative for both and hopefully the weather will improve to allow for an enthralling encounter.

Before Tuesday’s wash-out against the Unicorns at Southend, Kent were in prime form as they brushed aside Warwickshire in a rain-affected victory at the St Lawrence Ground last week. Under the floodlights and in front of the Sky Sports cameras, the Spitfires gunned down their opponents in all departments to seal a thumping ten-wicket win. The visitors batted first and were soon in disarray as they couldn’t handle opening bowler Mark Davies moving the ball off the seam. The former Durham man took three wickets – Will Porterfield, Jim Troughton and Tim Ambrose – to reduce the Bears to nine for four and finished off with stunning figures of 3-10 from his eight overs. Rikki Clarke (39) and all-rounder Chris Woakes (25*) re-built to some extent but spinner James Tredwell (2-24) ensured that when the rain started to fall, Warwickshire remained in trouble on 94 for seven in the 27th over.

Persistent rain brought about an early closure to the Bears innings and Kent were left with a modest victory target of 96 from 26 overs; a total which they quickly reached – inside 17 overs. Dashing opener Sam Billings was the star of the show as the right-hander drove the ball and pulled with a flourish on his way to a maiden one-day half-century. His unbeaten 58, off 54 balls, included nine commanding boundaries, and in partnership with captain Rob Key (24*), the 20 year-old saw the hosts through to a comprehensive win, while also impressing the Sky TV pundits.

Northants also suffered a washout in their previous CB40 game against Yorkshire, but, before that, they suffered a heavy defeat at the hands of Jim Troughton’s Warwickshire to continue their slow start to the qualifying stages.

Batting first at Wantage Road, the Steelbacks got off to a decent start with opener Alex Wakely showing his emerging talents, crafting 62 from 78 balls, but none of his team-mates followed suit. Pinch-hitter David Willey was the second top-scorer with 24 as New Zealander Jeetan Patel and all-rounder Keith Barker shared seven wickets to skittle the hosts for a paltry 148.

The visitors had no trouble in polishing off the required runs. Chopra made a fluent, unbeaten 87 and, alongside cameos from Porterfield (30) and Troughton (27), the opener sealed an eight wicket win with 44 balls remaining.

Kent will be looking for a reverse result from the last time Northants visited the Garden of England for a List A fixture. Back in 2009, the two met in a Pro40 Division Two clash at Canterbury and it proved to be a one-sided affair with the Steelbacks securing a 99 run win.

An inexperienced bowling attack suffered; former Kent wicketkeeper Niall O’Brien led the way as the visitors racked up 244 for six batting first. Seam bowlers Matt Coles and Phil Edwards were targeted by the Irishman with the duo conceding a combined 64 runs from six overs as O’Brien ran amok. His 72, off just 52 balls, was the catalyst for a strong total. Rob White weighed in with a more sedate 70 and Stephen Peters struck 47 in an opening stand of 101 off 12 overs with O’Brien. Part-time off-spinner James Hockley was surprisingly Kent’s most impressive bowler – returning 2-32.

Kent’s chase never got going and once David Lucas scythed through the top-order the game was up. The left-arm seamer took four wickets to reduce the hosts to 58 for four. Only Hockley, completing a fine all-round display, shone with the bat, scoring a well-paced half-century, as Kent were soon blown away for 145. Off-spinner Graeme White rushed through Kent’s lower order – taking 3-42.

An inexperienced side that day has been replaced by a more solid and vibrant Spitfires one-day package this season. Sunday is a crucial match for Jimmy Adams’ men as they look to keep CB40 Group C qualification well within their sights.

Team news to follow

Photo: Sarah Ansell

Photo – Sarah Ansell