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Match Preview: Yorkshire Carnegie v Kent Spitfires, Sunday 6th May

Friday 4th May 2012

Men’s First Team

Yorkshire Carnegie v Kent Spitfires, CB40 – Group C
Headingley Carnegie, Leeds – 6 May 2012

Kent’s cricketers start their 2012 CB40 campaign with a tough visit to Yorkshire Carnegie this Sunday. The two sides have already met twice this season in championship cricket with rain ensuring draws all-round, this time something is more likely to give as the Spitfires look to launch their Group C qualifying bid in positive fashion.

Joining the two teams in a tough group are Derbyshire, Sussex, Northants, Warwickshire and the Unicorns. Everyone plays each other twice – home and away – and the group winners are guaranteed a place in the semi-finals. There is also a last four berth for the best second-placed side out of the three groups so it’s all to play for in 40 over cricket this season, culminating with a Lord’s final on 14 September.

Last season Kent and the Tykes were paired together in Group A, but neither side managed to progress to the last four. The Spitfires finished in mid-table, four points adrift of top spot, while Yorkshire struggled – finishing second from bottom. However, honours remained even in the two group games between the counties.

First up, in May last year, Canterbury played host to a commanding victory for the visitors. A stunning batting display from captain Andrew Gale led the way as Yorkshire piled up 254 for seven batting first. The left-hander struck eleven fours and two sixes on his way to a majestic 112 from 114 balls. He was ably assisted by the promising Joe Root (43) as the duo added 124 for the third wicket. Adam Ball and Azhar Mahmood took two wickets apiece for the home side.

In reply, the Spitfires were never really in the hunt after losing opener Sam Northeast and Martin van Jaarsveld in consecutive Ryan Sidebottom balls with the score on 13 – unlucky for Kent. Darren Stevens rallied – scoring 39 – but leg-spinner Adil Rashid (3-30) hurried through Kent’s middle-order, leaving them soundly beaten as they were bowled out for 161.

Rob Key’s men did, however, gain some revenge in a thrilling return fixture at Headingley a week later. Again, Yorkshire batted first and this time they were restricted by the Spitfires attack. Gale (34), Adam Lyth (40) and Gary Ballance (47) all made starts but the visitors kept up the pressure with Stevens returning fine figures of 2-27 from his eight overs. Once Alex Blake took two wickets in four balls, the home side were struggling on 179 for seven with less than five overs remaining. It was left to the flashing blade of Ajmal Shahzad to push the hosts up to a competitive total. He blasted three sixes during his 34-ball 59 as Yorkshire finished on 230-7.

Matt Coles – promoted to a number three pinch-hitting role – impressed in the chase. His 47 came off just 38-balls to give the innings some impetus. South African van Jaarsveld carried on the mantle, going past fifty, but regular wickets ensured the game was left in the balance with Kent teetering on 137-5. The right-hander looked to be taking the visitors to victory when he bashed five consecutive boundaries off Shahzad but the paceman gained revenge by bowling van Jaarsveld for 74 with the final ball of the over. Geraint Jones then took control, with a calming knock of 39, to take Kent to the brink of victory and once Shahzad took him out in the final over the visitors needed four to win from five balls. Enter Ash Shaw. The left-arm swing bowler thumped the fourth ball of the over to the mid-wicket boundary to seal a nerve-wracking two-wicket victory.

Team news: Spitfires skipper Rob Keycould bea doubt, having missed last week’s championship clash against Yorkshire with an ankle injury. Wicketkeeper Geraint Jones will retain the captaincy if Key misses out. Aggressive opener Daniel Bell-Drummond could be in-line to take the opener’s spot at the top of the innings and Alex Blake is pushing for a place after making 97 against Oxford MCCU this week. One-day specialist Azhar Mahmood is still on IPL duty, with the Kings XI Punjab, while Shaw continues his recovery from a shin operation.

Yorkshire have signed Australian paceman Mitchell Starc to boost their bowling ranks but he will not make his Tykes debut until next Wednesday when they travel to Bristol to take on Gloucestershire in championship cricket. Also missing is the aforementioned Ajmal Shahzad who, to the surprise of many, is leaving the club with immediate effect. All-rounder Richard Pyrah remains sidelined with a broken hand, suffered against Kent earlier this season. England quick bowler Tim Bresnan is likely to play before returning to international duty next week.

For squad click here.

Photo: Sarah Ansell sarahcanterbury.com