Captain's fifty unable to stop Eagles being downed by Spitfires
PUBLISHED: 09:00 27 July 2019
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Vitality Blast South Group: Kent Spitfires (175-6) beat Essex Eagles (153-7) by 22 runs
Kent Spitfires maintained their leadership of the Vitality Blast south group after defeating Essex Eagles by 22 runs at a jam-packed Canterbury.
An unbeaten 55 from Heino Kuhn coupled with some wily bowling and a decent fielding stint helped ease the hosts to a third straight victory in front of their biggest crowd of the summer.
In pursuit of 176 at an asking rate of 8.8 an over, Essex lost dangerman Cameron Delport in only the third over. Having set off for a risky single to cover, the South African - fresh from his 129 of 49 balls against Surrey - was rightly sent back by Varun Chopra only to lose the race against Adam Milne's spectacular direct hit.
Tom Westley followed in Hardus Viljoen's next over, losing his off stump when working across the line, then Heino Kuhn held on to a stunning catch, diving full-length to his left at 'cow corner' at account for Chopra.
The asking rate was already above 10 an over as Eagles reached 67 for three after 10 overs when Dan Lawrence smeared across one from Viljoen to be caught at wide mid-off.
Then, when Ravi Bopara clattered an innocuous wide and short delivery from Fred Klassen to extra cover, Essex's chase was all but run despite Ryan ten Doeschate's valiant, unbeaten 58 - the top score of the game.
Batting first after winning the toss, Kent openers Daniel Bell-Drummond and Zak Crawley posted 51 in 29 balls before Essex removed Crawley, bowled around his legs after missing a Matt Quinn full-toss.
Crawley was replaced by Ollie Robinson, who duly launched the first six of the night over mid-wicket off the bowling of Bopara as Kent reached 93 for one at the innings mid-point.
Bopara won revenge in his next over when Robinson, in risking another slog-sweep from outside off, dragged the ball onto his stumps.
Kuhn, back in the Spitfires side having missed Kent's opening two games under the concussion protocol, opened his boundary account with a reverse paddle against Simon Harmer and then clattered Delport back over his head for six.
Bell-Drummond was caught at deep mid-wicket for a season's best 43 then, two runs later, Mohammad Nabi danced past his first ball, a turning delivery from Adam Zampa, to gift Adam Wheater a stumping.
With 30 deliveries remaining, Alex Blake aimed for the short, leg-side boundary only to hole out and give off-spinner Simon Harmer his sole success in a canny spell of one for 28.
With boundaries hard to come by - Kent went 28 balls without one - Spitfires' rookie Jordan Cox skied to mid-wicket against, only for Kuhn to redress the balance by taking 21 off Snater's last over to finish unbeaten with 55 from 31 balls.
Essex captain ten Doeschate said: "It was disappointing without being a complete train smash as I felt Kent had one or two more options and maybe a better balance to their team.
"The last over of Kent's innings, scoring 21, was vital to them. Had we kept them to 160 we'd have been pretty happy with that. But with a set batsman in there and all the skills that Heino possesses made it difficult for us to contain him.
"Unfortunately, we couldn't muster a couple of those big overs when we batted. I felt Viljoen and Milne did well for them, they looked to hold their lengths and kept it tight bowling at 140 kmph instead of our lads at 130 was probably the difference.
"I really struggled to hit it, I tried to go for it from 14 overs out, but the wicket was a little sticky and I never really found my timing."
Unbeaten Kent make the short journey to London to take on Surrey at The Kia Oval on Tuesday, July 30 (start 6.30pm), while Essex entertain Gloucestershire in Chelmsford today, Saturday, July 27 under the lights at New Writtle Street (Start 7pm) looking for their second win from four starts.