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Stevens gives masterclass as Spitfires smash Surrey at Kia Oval

Friday 19th June 2015

Men’s First Team

Darren Stevens starred with bat and ball as Kent maintained their push for a place in this season’s NatWest T20 Blast quarter finals with an emphatic 54-run win over Surrey in front of a near sell-out 21,717 crowd at the Kia Oval.

Stevens, the 39-year-old Spitfires’ veteran making his 172nd appearance in the format, hit a career-best 90 – including 40 scored from his last 11 balls faced – as Kent put Surrey’s inexperienced attack to the sword.

Having posted a competition best 231 for seven, Kent dismissed the shell-shocked hosts for 177 with Stevens claiming four for 39 to secure Spitfires’ sixth win in nine south group starts.

Stevens said: "I just love playing here. It was a belter of pitch with plenty of pace and carry in it, so, as I walked over the ropes to go out I was telling myself just to be sensible.

“I’ve not been giving myself a chance because I’ve not been taking a few balls to have a look at it and play myself in. But Danny [Bell-Drummond] was already well set when I got out there and that allowed me to just push it around a bit at the start. To feel my way into the innings.

“Once I got past 50 I felt good and pushed on. The lads are all going on about my last 40 coming off 11 balls, but I’m just disappointed to miss out on my first T20 hundred, because I felt it was there for the taking.

“I got my weight on the wrong side of the ball and the lofted drive went too straight and directly to the fielder. If I’d got my balance right, it would have gone for six over cow corner. I can’t complain though. We’ve had a good night out.”

The defeat, Surrey’s fourth in seven games, leaves them rooted to the foot of the group table with only one win to date.

Spitfires, batting first after winning the toss, made a poor start when Joe Denly (6) played around a turning delivery from Zafar Ansari to have off stump pegged back to the sixth ball of the night.

Kent skipper Sam Northeast, in top form with five 50s in this season’s Blast to his name, hit an effortless 32 from 18 balls for his part in a second wicket stand worth 57 that ended when Northeast, in trying to work against the spin, found a leading edge to spoon a return catch to Ansari.

Fabian Cowdrey maintained the momentum with a 12-ball cameo of 21 that was snuffed out by Tim Linley who had the Kent right-hander caught overhead at extra cover to make it96 for three at the half-way point of Kent’s innings.

With the Spitfires’ score on Nelson’s and with opener Daniel Bell-Drummond (38) opener ‘middled’ a back-foot force against Burke only to pick out a leaping Vikram Solanki at cover and go for 38 off 27 balls.

Kent’s fifth-wicket partners Alex Blake and Stevens then put peddle to the metal in terms of run-rate. Accelerating to post to 150 inside 16 overs, Stevens coasted past his season’s T20 best of 25 against Hampshire with a 28-ball 50 with eight boundaries, three of which came in succession against Tom Curran to reach the milestone.

Stevens clobbered Burke for two sixes into the OCS Stand and another over extra cover to take 27 off the 18th over and take Kent past 193 – their previous best T20 score against Surrey at Beckenham last month – as the duo added 109 in 7.4 overs.

Stevens succumbed after 39 balls and just 10 short of his maiden T20 ton, caught off a skier at long-on in Linley’s final over. Blake (27) perished to a switch hit to be caught at short third man, leaving rookie wicketkeeper Ryan Davies to plunder the eighth six of the innings and take Kent to their T20 record total of 231 for seven – beating their previous-best of 227 for seven scored at Taunton last month.

Linley finished with four for 45 and Ansari impressed with two for 22, otherwise it was a night Surrey’s inexperienced attack will want to forget.

In pursuit of 232 at an incredible asking rate of 11.6 an over, Surrey made the worst possible start when Aneesh Kapil heaved across the line to Stevens’ third ball of the reply to have his stumps rearranged.

Ben Foakes (10) skied to mid-wicket off Ivan Thomas then Tom Curran, after a sprightly 41, ran himself out when risking a suicidal second to Denly in the deep leaving Surrey on 101 for three at the mid-point.

Stevens returned to have Ansari (33) caught on the mid-wicket ropes and although Gary Wilson clubbed a 30-ball half-century, once Coles had the Irishman caught behind off a gloved bouncer, Surrey’s outside chances went with him.

Click here for the scorecard