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Essex Eagles leapfrog Kent Spitfires with T20 Blast win

Friday 22nd July 2016

Men’s First Team

Essex Eagles swooped for a fourth victory in five starts at Canterbury to win their NatWest T20 Blast derby with Kent by 33 runs and put a huge dent in Spitfires hopes of reaching this year’s knock-out stages.

The visitors held their nerve in front of a passionate 6,000 crowd at the Spitfire Ground, St Lawrence to comfortably defend their total of 190 for two and make themselves favourites to claim the south group’s fourth-place qualifying berth.

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Kent slid to a seventh defeat of the campaign despite a late, top-scoring cameo from Spitfires beneficiary Darren Stevens (33) and will now need other results to go their way if they are to reach the quarter finals.

Batting first in ideal conditions and after winning the toss, Essex openers Dan Lawrence and Nick Browne faced a pacey Kent new-ball quartet in Kagiso Rabada, Mitch Claydon, David Griffiths and Matt Coles.

Rabada overstepped in his first over to concede a free-hit that Lawrence could only drag onto his stumps. Claydon also sinned on the front foot to draw Lawrence into a ‘swing and a miss’

The wiry right-hander hit back with three successive boundaries in Claydon’s next over, while Coles showed a little ring rustiness by conceding 10 off his first four deliveries.

The former England Lions paceman made amends with Kent’s first breakthrough after Rabada’s stunning diving catch on the deep mid-wicket ropes in front of a packed Lesie Ames Stand accounted for Browne (19).

Essex posted their 50 in sixth over and by the end of their powerplay had reached 60 for one.

Coles struck for a second time, but again had the fielder to thank as Sam Northeast pulled off a stunning over-the-shoulder catch running back toward deep extra cover that accounted for Lawrence (27).

Eagles third-wicket pairing of Ravi Bopara and Tom Westley reached 85 for two at the half-way stage of the innings and went on to add an unbroken 119 at a run-rate of 10.05 – beating their own record against Kent of 92 set at Colchester in 2014.

Westley broke Kent’s brief stranglehold with the first six of the night from a sweetly-timed extra cover drive that helped raise his 33-ball 50.

Rabada switched ends to concede 10 off the bat from his final over and to end his eight-match sojourn with the Spitfires with a wicketless four-over stint that cost 28 in all.

Griffiths leaked a further 16 from the final over of the innings allowing Bopara to reach his 50 from 34 balls and with eight fours, while Westley finished unbeaten on 74 after 49 balls faced.

Kent went into the game in search of a seventh win but made a poor start when Daniel Bell-Drummond (12) skied the 13th ball of the innings to the bowler David Masters, the former Kent seamer.

Matters might have been worse had Bopara clung on to a tough overhead catch at mid-off later in the over but Joe Denly enjoyed the let off to move into double figures.

Home skipper Northeast briefly upped the tempo by taking a six over mid-wicket and four through point in Masters next over, then Denly took a brace of boundaries off Graham Napier to move to 21 before having his off stump pegged back as the hosts limped to the end of the powerplay on 48 for two.

Without addition to the total Sam Billings went for a single when he edged a back foot force into the gloves of James Foster stood up to the stumps to give Masters figures of two for 29.

Lawrence, the Essex leg-spinner struck a crucial blow with his second ball of the night by bowling Northeast (22) around his legs as he aimed a mid-wicket clip as Kent reached 72 for four at the mid-point of their reply.

Eight runs on left-hander Alex Blake (19) edged Bopara’s slow-ball bouncer to the keeper and, when Coles (7) followed suit to pick out Matt Quinn on the deep mid-wicket ropes, Spitfires race was as good as run.

Scorecard

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