Kent’s best crowd of the season witness a last over thriller at The Oval

Thursday 8th July 2010

Darren Stevens gave Kent a fighting chance with anunbeaten half-century

Kent Spitfires v Essex Eagles, Friends Provident t20 South Group, The Brit Oval.
Kent 171 for six (20 overs); Essex 174-6 (19.4 overs).
By Mark Pennell
Kent attracted a crowd of 7,600 to SE11, but were unable to mark their historic Twenty20 switch to The Oval with a victory as Essex held their nerve in a run-chase to win by four wickets and with two balls to spare.
In the absence of Rob Key – missing with a fractured little finger having been hit on the gloves by Dominic Cork at The Rose Bowl earlier in the week – Kent were captained by Martin van Jaarsveld who, after electing to bat first, was at the crease within four overs after an opening stand of 27.
Spitfires“ makeshift opener James Hockley (18) was the first to go, stumped off a leg-side wide from Scott Styris by the excellent James Foster to bring van Jaarsveld and Joe Denly together.
The pair added only 14 before van Jaarsveld, Kent“s top-scorer in this year“s competition, undone by a Styris slower ball dragged it straight to mid-wicket when aiming to hit back over the bowler“s head.
Denly might have gone for 30 when he skied an attempted on-drive only to see the bowler Ravinder Bopara miss the steepling chance completely, but his luck soon evaded him.
The right-hander then pushed straight to mid-off and set off on a risky single leaving his partner Geraint Jones (11) high and dry when Matt Walker“s throw arrived to run him out.
Denly (35) then fell in the same unnecessary manner. Pushing to Styris in the covers he pushed off for the run only to be sent back by Darren Stevens and finish yards short of his ground when Foster broke the stumps.
Kent eventually started to accelerate their run-rate with Stevens and Alex Blake in tandem and posted their hundred in the 15th over by Styris as 13 came off the over.
Stevens then took toll of some poor bowling from former Kent seamer David Masters. The right-armer over-pitched allowing Stevens to straight drive to the pavilion then, when Masters bowled too short, Stevens freed his arms to cut through backward point for four.
The partnership added 53 in 27 balls before Blake (17) drove firmly mid-off only to pick out Cook at long-off then Azhar Mahmood, having hit two boundaries, edged an attempted cut to the keeper to give Bopara a fortunate wicket.
In the final over Stevens reached his unbeaten 26-ball 50 with eight fours in the in which Matt Coles plundered another couple of boundaries as Kent topped up their total by adding 91 in their final seven overs at 13 an over.
Essex started their chase well through Ravinder Bopara (29 from 21 balls) and looked to be coasting to their ninth South Group win as Alastair Cook and Mark Pettini contributed identical scores of 51 from 36 balls.
But Cook needlessly tossed away his wicket by chipping to mid-on and then former Kent favourite Matt Walker (1) went leg before to a full-length delivery from Simon Cook, who with two for 21 was Kent“s top bowler of the night.
Azhar Mahmood“s penultimate over conceded only three runs and led to the demise of Pettini, to another deadly yorker, and the pressure started to grow with Essex needing 23 from 12 balls.
Up stepped New Zealander Scott Styris with a four and two sixes in the 19th over from Matt Coles and though Coles bowled the burly all-rounder with his final delivery Essex were once again favourites.
Needing six from as many balls, Mahmood bowled James Foster but then conceded a leg-side wide and then watched in agony as Tim Phillips marched in to slog the winning boundary and inflict a ninth defeat of the campaign on the Spitfires.