Match Preview: Hampshire Royals v Kent Spitfires Friends Life t20

Thursday 21st June 2012

Men’s First Team

Hampshire Royals v Kent Spitfires Friends Life t20 – South Division

The Ageas Bowl, Southampton. Friday, 22 June. 7pm start

Kent’s cricketers travel to the south coast tomorrow for the first installment of a crucial Friends Life t20 weekend double-header against Hampshire Royals.

The Spitfires host the Royals at Canterbury in the return fixture on Sunday, but, firstly, all eyes will be on the South Coast on Friday evening with both sides going all out to secure a vital south division victory. Rob Key’s men currently sit third in the qualifying table having claimed three points from their opening three outings, while Hampshire prop up the division having suffered a wash-out and a defeat in their first two fixtures. It’s all to play for under the lights with a top two position the target for all six teams battling it out in the south division.

Kent will be looking to bounce straight back from the narrow defeat, suffered at the hands of Essex at Chelmsford on Wednesday night. The controversial three-run win for the home side provided gripping viewing for a wholesome crowd as the Eagles sealed a last ball win. Batting first, the hosts recovered from a slow start to post a respectable 158 for six. The total was powered by captain James Foster who biffed four sixes on his way to a 27 ball half-century. Two wickets for Adam Ball complimented typically tight spells from Mark Davies (1-19) and James Tredwell (0-19), but Matt Coles suffered at the death; conceding an ultimately crucial 24 runs off his final over.

The Spitfires stuttered in reply as Key and Azhar Mahmood fell in consecutive balls to former Kent man David Masters before youngster Sam Billings and Darren Stevens steadied the ship. Opener Billings continued to add to his blossoming reputation, smashing two towering sixes on his way to a maiden domestic t20 half century. Stevens (21) and West Indian Brendan Nash (26) chipped in with quickfire cameos but a decisive spell of bowling from Greg Smith sealed the win for the home side. The former Derbyshire medium-pacer ran through Kent’s middle order to claim fine figures of 5-17. Despite a six-run penalty being imposed on the Eagles for a slow over rate, Kent still needed a boundary to win off the final ball and Graham Napier completed the narrow win by bowling Davies.

The Travelling Kent fans will be hoping for an improved display from the last time the Spitfires made the trip to Southampton for a t20 match. Last season, in the qualifying stages, the hosts romped to a 69 run victory after Kent turned in an abject batting display.

The Spitfires were shot out for 72 – the fourth lowest total in domestic Twenty20 history – after being set a victory target of 142. The damage was done at the top of the order when Key, Joe Denly and Azhar all fell for ducks inside the first fourteen balls. Reckless batting and poor shot selection contributed to the Spitfires downfall as t20 specialist Dimitri Mascarenhas returned 3-29 in the Royals rout. Only Stevens, Wahab Riaz and all-rounder Ball reached double figures in an innings devoid of key batsman Martin van Jaarsveld after the South African hurt his finger fielding.

The hosts decided to take first use of a turning wicket and were immediately put under pressure by spinners James Tredwell and van Jaarsveld as Kent attacked with slow bowling from the off. Tredwell conceded just twelve runs from his four overs and accounted for James Vince (22), but it was the occasional bowling of van Jaarsveld that caused the most trouble. The off-spinner had Jimmy Adams caught at slip before bowling Pakistani master-blaster Shahid Afridi first ball. He also took out England World Cup winner Michael Lumb, on his way to Twenty20 best figures of 3-20. At 35 for three the Royals looked in trouble but another South African – Neil McKenzie – played with great intelligence, scoring 48 from 46 balls, to see his side up to 141 for six, a total that was far beyond Kent’s reach.

Hampshire will also be looking to bounce back from a defeat after they were comfortably beaten by Middlesex on Monday. An unbeaten 64 from James Vince set up a Royals total of 157 for six but he was outdone by Irishman Paul Stirling. The Panthers number three cracked 71, off just 49 balls, to take Middlesex to a final over, six wicket victory.

Team news

Kent will be without premier spin bowler James Tredwell for the trip south. The off-spinner has replaced Graeme Swann in the England squad for their final ODI against West Indies at Headingley. That games begins at 10.45 tomorrow morning.

Hampshire had hoped to field Pakistani all-rounder Shahid Afridi for the fixture but his arrival has been delayed due to changes in Visa regulations. The big-hitter will also miss Sunday’s game. The Royals do however have two other overseas options in their squad in the shape of former Australian Test-match batsman Simon Katich and his fellow countryman Glenn Maxwell. All-rounder Maxwell holds the record for the fastest one-day 50 in Australian domestic cricket, coming off just 19 balls.

The Kent squad travelling to Hampshire:

Rob Key

Sam Billings

Azhar Mahmood

Darren Stevens

Brendan Nash

Sam Northeast

Geraint Jones

Matt Coles

Mark Davies

Adam Ball

Simon Cook

Chris Piesley

Adam Riley

Fabian Cowdrey