Match Preview: Kent Spitfires v Essex Eagles Flt20, Friday 6th July

Friday 6th July 2012

Men’s First Team

Kent Spitfires v Essex Eagles, Friends Life t20 – south group

St Lawrence Ground, Canterbury, Friday, 6th July – 7pm start

A brilliant bowling display at the Kia Oval last night has kept Kent’s qualification hopes alive. Tonight they welcome the Essex Eagles to the St Lawrence Ground for another must win game as the Spitfires look to hunt down a top-three berth in their south qualifying group.

A win for Rob Key’s men would see them leap-frog tonight’s opponents and put them into contention to seal a quarter-final place. Permutations in other qualifying groups mean that the Spitfires could qualify as one of the two ‘best third placed’ teams. Firstly, they must win their final two group games.

Kent were in fine form with the ball in Kennington last night, where they comfortably brushed aside the Surrey Lions. Having been put into bat, Kent battled hard, without ever looking likely to post a massive total. However, 136 for eight proved to be more than enough for the hosts. Captain Key and Alex Blake both made 35 for the visitors as they built up a respectable total.

It was with the ball that the Spitfires really excelled. Seamer Mark Davies trapped danger man Kevin Pietersen leg before in the first over and a glut of wickets followed as Surrey slumped to 18 for four at one stage. Davies shared the wickets with a rejuvenated Azhar Mahmood, who bowled the dangerous Jason Roy round his legs first ball. Zafar Ansari (18) restored some of the damage alongside Zander de Bruyn (25), but their fifth wicket stand of 45 was ended when Darren Stevens bowled the young Cambridge University student.

From there, Surrey collapsed again as off-spinner Adam Riley impressed, deputising for England bound James Tredwell, by snaring two wickets. The match was complete when Adam Ball bowled home skipper Gareth Batty for ten, with the total on a paltry 88 – Surrey’s lowest total in the FL t20 competition. Azhar (3-12), Riley (2-15) and Davies (2-18) all played their part in a stunning bowling effort as the Spitfires cruised to a crucial 48 run win.

Essex were also winners last night to keep their qualification dreams alive. In a low scoring game at Chelmsford, the home side restricted Middlesex to 109. The Eagles then looked like they were coasting to victory with Mark Pettini (50) and Greg Smith (27) putting on 74 for the second wicket, inside ten overs. However, they soon lost seven wickets for just 32 runs before stumbling over the line with just two wickets and 14 balls to spare.

One point separates the Spitfires and Eagles in the south division and Kent will be looking to claim the points tonight and avenge the narrow three-run defeat they suffered at the hands of their opponents in the reverse fixture last month.

The last time Essex visited the St Lawrence Ground for a t20 fixture, they found Kent in sparking form. The hosts sealed an eight-wicket win, and the Spitfires faithful will be looking for a repeat performance tonight. Under the Canterbury lights, the visitors batted first and were restricted to 153-8 after a fine all-round bowling display from Kent.

Despite losing pinch-hitter Adam Wheater in the first over, Essex recovered well with Pettini (36) and Owais Shah (34) adding 55 for the second-wicket. The introduction of medium-pacer Ball and spinner Tredwell soon changed proceedings; firstly Ball clung on to sharp caught and bowled opportunity to take out Pettini. England’s Ravi Bopara then fell to Tredwell three balls later before Ball took the prize scalp of Dutchman Ryan ten Doeschate, to finish with fine figures of 2-28. Once Shah was run-out by Stevens all hopes of a big Essex total were extinguished.

Key, alongside Joe Denly, got the chase off to a flying start with the duo posting 55 for the first wicket inside seven overs before the latter was caught and bowled by Tim Phillips for 20. The dismissal didn’t halt the Spitfires’ progress though as Key and Azhar took control. The Kent skipper compounded Bopara’s bad day by taking his solitary over for 14 as he made a nerveless 75 and Azhar struck six boundaries on his way to a half century. The pair crashed 97 in 11 overs before Key was run-out, with victory in sight, leaving Azhar with the job of hitting former Kent bowler David Masters for the winning runs with 13 balls to spare.

Tonight is your last chance to see the Spitfires in the Friends Life t20 at Canterbury this season, so come and give the boys your support. As well as thrilling cricket action, the Club are also laying on plenty of other activities.

Tickets are just £20 for adults and £5 for juniors in advance, and all include the full entertainment package. There will be an appearance from comedian Rob Beckett (8 out of 10 cats, Fresh Meat). Rob was a steward at the St Lawrence Groundbefore he found fame and he will be here as part of Rory Bremner's Stand Up for Friends Life t20 Tour.

Justin Timberlike will be bringing Sexyback to the St Lawrence Ground with his pre-match performance, and there will be an inflatable Gladiator Duel for your enjoyment. Everyone in the audience also has the chance to win a Nando’s half chicken with our Nando’s Challenge. The Kent Cricket Kiss Cam will be back, so get ready to pucker up and see yourselves on the big screen – which will be showing all the action throughout the night!

You’ll also have the chance to check out the latest moves from the Spitfire Sweethearts cheerleading troupe, who will be throwing prizes into the audience during the match.

Don’t miss out on the action – click here to secure your ticket. Save by buying pre-purchase, print at home tickets – available until 5pm on Friday when gates open.