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Match Preview: Surrey v Kent Spitfires FLt20, Thursday 5th July

Wednesday 4th July 2012

Men’s First Team

Surrey v Kent Spitfires, Friends Life t20 – South Division

Kia Oval, London – Thursday, 5 July. 6.30pm start

It is win or bust for the Kent Spitfires as they travel to London tomorrow to take on the Surrey a Friends Life t20 clash under the Kia Oval lights.

Three straight defeats for Rob Key’s side mean it is now almost impossible for them to fill a top-two qualifying berth in the south group. The best they can hope for is to win their final three games and put themselves in contention for a superior third placed finish out of the three groups.

Two ‘best losers’ places are up for grabs and Kent, currently in fourth place having taken five points from seven games, will be looking to end their qualifying schedule on a high as they bid for a quarter-final place.

Surrey, the Spitfires’ opponents, have already been eliminated from the competition, having taken just four points from seven games. They have, however, faced extremely tough circumstances following the tragic death of talented batsman Tom Maynard – hours after they lost to Kent at Beckenham last month.

Both sides go into the game on the back of reverses against Sussex – the runaway leaders in the south group. Kent suffered a heavy defeat at the hands of the Sharks last Friday, at Hove, when the south coast side won by 83 runs after piling up 212 for six from their 20 overs. Michael Yardy’s men then confirmed their passage through to the last eight when they brushed aside the Lions in Kennington last night. A rain-affected match saw the visitors reach their victory target of 109 off 15 overs with six wickets and 20 balls to spare.

Last season, Kent went into a clash with Surrey at the Oval in a similar must-win scenario. Some brutal hitting from Darren Stevens and Azhar Mahmood scripted a 15 run win for the Spitfires and they will be hoping for a similar result tomorrow. A partisan 15,000 strong crowd crammed into the ground to witness the must-win game for both sides and it was former Surrey star Azhar who immediately silenced the home faithful. After Key was run-out for 12, at the end of the third over, the Pakistani took control. He clubbed 16 off a Gareth Batty over before Stevens joined him at the crease in the tenth over to prompt a spell of carnage. Azhar moved to his third fifty of last season’s competition, off thirty balls, as Stevens swung merrily at the other end – despatching spinner Zafar Ansari for two sixes. A stunning fourth wicket stand of 67, off just 33 balls, came to end when Stevens holed out in the deep attempting a third consecutive six off Batty. His 43, from 19 balls, was the perfect catalyst for a big Spitfires’ total. Azhar’s knock of 60 came to an end in the next over before countryman Wahab Riaz hauled his side up to 181 for nine with a brisk 19.

Surrey’s chase started in positive fashion. Opener Jason Roy plundered 53, during a partnership of 66 in six overs with home skipper Rory Hamilton-Brown (29), before Kent hit back. Roy, aiming for his second six, could only find Sam Northeast in the deep, off the bowling Stevens, and Hamilton-Brown followed shortly after when he was run-out by Azhar. The game was in the balance with the hosts reaching 91 for three at the half-way stage but Kent continued to chip away. South African Zander de Bruyn fell in identical fashion to his captain and former Kent overseas star Yasir Arafat then mistimed a hook to become one of three Charl Langeveldt scalps.

The late Tom Maynard tried to keep Surrey in the hunt with a well-crafted 36 but with twenty required to win, off the final over, Azhar capped a fine personal evening by running out Ansari to ensure Kent leapfrogged their opponents into a qualification place with just a game to go. Key’s men went on to win their final game against Essex to seal a quarter-final date with Leicestershire Foxes – the eventual tournament winners.

Both the Spitfires andSurrey have found it tough going in FL t20 cricket this term but there have still been some stand-out performers. For Kent, opener Sam Billings has impressed everyone, posting 186 runs at 31 in his first full campaign in the Spitfires side. This haul includes a maiden domestic t20 half-century, scored against Essex at Chelmsford. He is followed by Darren Stevens (165 runs @ 33) and Sam Northeast (143 @ 35.75), with the latter showing great versatility; whether it be in the middle order or as an opener. Surrey have missed Irishman Gary Wilson, after the right-hander started the season in fine fettle scoring 149 runs at an average of 74.50 in their opening four FLt20 games. He has since been in international duty with his country and has been sorely missed. Fellow wicketkeeper Steve Davies follows Wilson in Surrey's run-scoring stakes; scoring 135 from seven knocks.

In the bowling stakes, Adam Ball leads the way for Kent having claimed nine scalps but Mark Davies deserves a special mention. The former Durham seamer has an economy rate of just 5.79 from 24 overs, a fine effort considering the majority of his overs have been bowled in the powerplay period. Stand-in captain Gareth Batty has taken ten wickets for the Lions to put himself well in front at the top of the Surrey bowling charts.

Team news

At this time, Kent have no new injury worries to report following Rob Key’s return to fitness after missing the Middlesex clash last week through a neck injury.

For Surrey, captain Rory Hamilton-Brown has decided to take a break from cricket following Tom Maynard’s death. Gareth Batty will captain the side. England star Kevin Pietersen is available again following his retirement from ODIs and international t20 cricket. Indian spinner Murali Kartik and Aussie quick Dirk Nannes fill the overseas roles for the Lions.

Full Kent team news to follow.