Match Preview: Sussex Sharks v Kent Spitfires FLt20, Friday 29th June

Thursday 28th June 2012

Men’s First Team

Match Preview: Sussex Sharks v Kent Spitfires FLt20, Friday 29th June

Sussex Sharks v Kent Spitfires, Friends Life t20 – South Division

Probiz County Ground, Hove – Friday, 29th June. 7.10pm start

The Kent Spitfires need to return to winning ways quickly, following two consecutive Friends Life t20 defeats, if they are to keep their south division qualification hopes alive. The trip to the south coast on Friday, to take on the group leaders – Sussex Sharks, won’t be an easy one but a win is crucial for Kent.

After succumbing to Hampshire and Middlesex in home fixtures this week; the Spitfires currently sit fourth in the table, having taken five points from six games. With four games to play it looks as though a maximum haul could be required if they are to progress to the quarter-finals. The Sharks, on the other hand are unbeaten and top the south group with eight points – two ahead of the Essex Eagles, going into tonight’s game at Chelmsford.

The fixture, under the Hove lights, is undoubtedly a must-win game for the visitors, and Kent batsman Sam Northeast is clearly geared up for it: “All the guys are looking forward to it. There is always a good atmosphere under the lights. We have enjoyed some good practice sessions, over the last couple of days, and it’s a crucial game for us. They are not an easy side to play against, because they have good quality, but we still believe we can get something from it.”

The right-hander was one of a limited number of bright spots for Kent when Middlesex stormed the St Lawrence Ground on Tuesday, in front of the Sky television cameras. A large Canterbury crowd were treated to a stunning batting display by the visitors, led by former Kent batsman Joe Denly. The opener cracked an unbeaten 90, off just 66 balls, as the Panthers amassed 207 for two. Irishman Paul Stirling started the blitz, smashing 63 from 37, before England star Eoin Morgan chipped in with a rapid 36. Only Mark Davies (0-21) and James Tredwell (1-23) retain some respectability from the bowling unit.

Despite the steep chase Kent openers Northeast and Sam Billings provided some exhilarating batting. The duo played beautifully to post 90 for the opening wicket, inside eleven overs, before Billings perished for 43. Northeast – promoted to the top of the order in the absence of captain Rob Key – continued the momentum and went to a maiden t20 half-century before he picked out Morgan on the boundary off the bowling of Neil Dexter. His departure, for a fine 60, sparked a collapse as the home side lost four wickets in four balls to extinguish any hopes of a remarkable run-chase. Dexter, the former Kent all-rounder, finished with figures of 3-22 as the Spitfires could only muster 159 for seven. The defeat leaves them with plenty of work to do if they are to qualify for the last eight.

Sussex take on the Eagles tonight in the return fixture from last Sunday when the Sharks took glory in a run-fest at Hove. Batting first, the home side piled up 209 for six on a day where the scoreboard rattled along. Opener Chris Nash made a typically belligerent half-century, Luke Wright weighed in with 40, Kiwi overseas star Scott Styris made 36 and Joe Gatting finished undefeated on 45 as they set a daunting target.

Essex made a valiant effort in their run-chase but, in the end, still fell 19 runs short. Captain James Foster led the way, smashing four sixes, in a brutal 47 but only Mark Pettini (44) and Greg Smith (39) contributed anything else of note as three wickets for quick bowler Chris Liddle helped maintain the Sharks unbeaten start to the qualifying stages.

Last season, when Kent were due to play Sussex in a FL t20 fixture at Hove, heavy rain ensured the match was abandoned without a ball being bowled. Sussex won the return fixture at Canterbury by 15 runs. Jimmy Adams’ Spitfires will be looking for an upturn in fortunes under the Hove lights. It promises to be a classic as Kent look to topple the south group pace-setters.

Team news: The Spitfires will hope to welcome captain Rob Key back into the travelling party for the trip to the south coast after he missed Tuesday’s defeat against Middlesex with a neck injury. Sussex have South African bowler Rusty Theron signed up alongside New Zealander Scott Styris for the FL t20 tournament but the former is currently unavailable after returning to his home country for personal reasons. The Sharks have been boosted by the news that Australian fast bowler Steve Magoffin has retired from first class cricket with Queensland to sign an 18-month contract at the Probiz County Ground. He could play some part in t20 cricket while Theron remains unavailable.

Photo: Sarah Ansell