Match Preview: Kent Spitfires v Middlesex Panthers FLt20, Tuesday 26th June

Monday 25th June 2012

Men’s First Team

Match Preview: Kent Spitfires v Middlesex Panthers FLt20, Tuesday 26th June

Kent Spitfires v Middlesex Panthers, Friends Life t20 – South Division

St Lawrence Ground, Canterbury, Tuesday, 26 June. 7.10pm start

Kent Spitfires welcome Middlesex Panthers, and the Sky Sports cameras, to the St Lawrence Groundon Tuesdaynight for another exciting Friends Life t20 south division clash.

In a tight qualifying group it is all to play for as Kent look to nail down a position in the top two. Rob Key’s men currently sit in third position, having taken five points from their first five outings. Sussex Sharks lead the group on eight points with Essex a point ahead of Kent in second place. Middlesex, on the other hand, have yet to ignite their qualification charge. They currently prop up the table, after claiming just one win from five games, but with half the group games still to play, all can change – and quickly.

Kent will look to bounce back from a Glenn Maxwell inspired defeat – suffered at the hands of Hampshire at Canterbury on Sunday. The Australian all-rounder smashed six sixes in a brutal 32-ball 66 to make light work of the 136 victory target. Earlier in the day, the home batsman struggled to really get going as they posted a modest total. After Dimitri Mascarenhas took out openers Sam Billings and Key in consecutive balls, a slow re-building job was required. This was provided by Azhar Mahmood (21 from 27) before Darren Stevens provided the fireworks. The prolific run-scorer blasted a quick fire 60, from just 44 balls, to light up the afternoon and take the hosts up to 135 for six.

Hampshire looked to be struggling in their chase, before Maxwell confidently strode to the crease, after Adam Ball claimed two wickets to reduce them to 59 for four. However the powerful Victorian tore into Kent’s attack – James Tredwell, in particular – to lead the Royals to victory. Maxwell dominated a 79 run stand with Sean Ervine to seal the Spitfires’ fate.

Middlesex were also on the wrong end of some powerful hitting as they succumbed to league leaders Sussex on Friday night. At Hove, the hosts were powered by Luke Wright with the all-rounder smashing 91 in a total of 161 for four. The Panthers run-chase looked to be on the right track with former Kent batsman Joe Denly (36) and John Simpson (32) posting 62 for the first wicket. However, once they fell, the Panthers had little in reserve as Sharks spinners Michael Yardy and Will Beer shared four wickets to secure a slender 21 run victory.

If tomorrow’s clash is anything like the last time the two sides met in t20 cricket at Canterbury then a large crowd is in line for a real treat. An historic day for Kent cricket was matched by an enthralling encounter as the Spitfires miraculously secured a low-scoring victory in the first game played under the new, permanent floodlights at the St Lawrence Ground.

The hosts recovered from being reduced to 21 for six to snatch a nine-run victory as the Middlesex Panthers failed to chase down a paltry 115 for nine set by Key’s men on a tricky batting wicket. Luckily enough, play was able to start on time after a day of rain but immediately a bumper Canterbury crowd were in disbelief as the home batting crumbled. Denly was caught by former Kent team-mate Neil Dexter, at slip off Anthony Ireland, and it started the procession of wickets. Key, Azhar, Stevens, Sam Northeast and Billings all fell for single figure scores as Ireland and Steven Crook took full control, utilising the seamer friendly conditions to bag three scalps apiece. It was left for Geraint Jones and Tredwell to restore some of the damage. The pair added 35 for the seventh wicket before Jones was caught off spinner Tom Smith for 27. Tredwell continued to attack and smashed two slog-sweeps for maximums on his way to a crucial unbeaten 34 as he gave himself and the rest of the attack something to bowl at.

Batting didn’t get any easier and once the dangerous Paul Stirling pulled Azhar to Ball at mid-on, in the second-over, the home side fancied their chances of pulling off a remarkable win. The same combination accounted for Scott Newman (eight) before Ball and Tredwell (2-14) bowled perfectly in the middle overs to turn the screw. They conceded just 33 runs from eight overs and once Charl Langeveldt returned to take out fellow countryman Ryan McLaren with a sharp caught and bowled, the visitors were struggling on 68 for seven in the 17th over. Tail-enders Crook (23) and Smith (11) stopped the flow of wickets but never looked like threatening the victory target as Wahab Riaz and Langeveldt kept their cool at the death to restrict Middlesex to 106 for seven and take Kent to a third straight t20 win.

Tomorrow’s fixture will give Kent fans the chance to welcome back Joe Denly after he made the move to Lord’s during the winter. Denly has started the season in decent form for the London based county, but he has struggled to find his t20 rhythm – averaging under ten from five knocks. Dawid Malan is currently the Panthers leading run-scorer this season, striking 136 at 27.20. Toby Roland-Jones leads the wicket-taking stakes; with eight scalps. Australian Chris Rogers is the Panthers solitary overseas star but he has also struggled for t20 form – scoring just 18 runs from four innings. Sri Lankan speedster and former Kent man Lasith Malinga had also been signed to take part in the FL t20 competition but he later withdrew through injury.

Darren Stevens, Kent’s t20 specialist, continues to be the star man with the bat as he continues to consolidate his position as the highest domestic t20 run-scorer. So far this qualifying campaign, the powerful batsman has scored 138 runs at an average of 46. Promising opener Billings follows with 105 runs, after he made a maiden half-century against Essex at Chelmsford last week. Medium-pacer Ball currently leads the bowling charts, having claimed seven wickets at 14.57. However, special praise must be reserved for Mark Davies. The former Durham seam bowler has conceded just 72 runs from his 16 overs leaving him with an economy rate of 4.5 – something unheard of in t20 cricket.

Full team news to follow shortly.

Meanwhile, ahead of Kent Spitfires v Middlesex Panthers, England’s women start their NatWest International T20 Series against India. The opening fixture, in the two-match series, gets underway at 3.10pm andthose attending either match are welcome to watch the other fixture as part of their ticket package.

England’s women go into the game full of confidence, after beating Ireland by 51 runs in the NatWest International T20 at Loughborough. Kent and England skipper Charlotte Edwards led the way with an unbeaten half-century and she is very much looking forward to playing at the St Lawrence Ground. The second (and final) match of the series takes place at Chelmsford on Thursday.

Gates open at 1.10pm tomorrow, two hours before thescheduled start timeof the Women's fixture at 3.10pm. Click here to save by pre-purchasing print at home tickets online which offer access to both matches– Adults £20, Juniors £5. Pre-purchase prices are available until two hours before the scheduled start time of each match.

The Spitfires' Friends Life t20 match tomorrow is also our Spitfire Boys Night Out – the first 1,000 tickets purchased include a free food and drink voucher – use the online promotional code SPITFIRE12 when booking to take advantage of this offer.

Please note that parking will be very limited on site at the St Lawrence Ground tomorrow due to Sky's presence. However, parking will also be available at Simon Langton Girls School. Standard entry prices apply unless you hold a Parking Pass.