Outrageous Pepper helps Essex punish Kent in Vitality Blast
- Credit: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo
Michael Pepper showcased his outrageous hitting for a second successive Tuesday night as Essex Eagles thrashed Kent Spitfires by seven wickets in the Vitality Blast.
Batter Pepper shook out a personal-best 75 not out against Hampshire Hawks last week and followed that up by punching 50 as the Eagles knocked off 131 with 27 balls unneeded.
A sensational team bowling powerplay had earlier set the platform to stunt Kent, as Daniel Sams, Sam Cook, Ben Allison and Matt Critchley all eventually snared two wickets each.
Essex are in the quarter-final hunt with three wins from six games and boast an unbeaten start at Chelmsford. Kent are rock bottom with a solitary victory.
Eagles decided to bowl first and vindicated their decision with a barbaric display of powerplay bowling to leave Spitfires 24 for four - a minor recovery from 17 for four.
Sams, Cook and Allison all bowled two overs, with stunning figures of one for seven, one for three and two for nine respectively.
Australian Sams produced a snorter to have Daniel Bell-Drummond caught at first slip in the first over, before T20 debutant Tawanda Muyeye holed Allison out to deep midwicket and Jordan Cox tickled to a juggling short fine leg two balls later. Cook completed the ruthless start when Grant Stewart mishit to point.
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Alex Blake attempted to readdress the momentum by striking back-to-back sixes, as Aron Nijjar went for 21 in his sole over. But despite partnerships of 29 with Sam Billings - who was brilliantly caught and bowled by Simon Harmer - and 27 with Jack Leaning, setting a total was laborious.
Leg spinner Critchley bowled Leaning and had George Linde slicing to Sams at point. It was one of four catches for Sams which equalled Essex's T20 record - set by Dan Lawrence in this fixture last year.
Freddie Klaassen outdid all three Essex powerplay bowlers to bowl a maiden and then a wicket maiden - having bowled Adam Rossington. But Pepper picked up from his heroics here last week.
A four over extra cover got his eye in before he carted Matt Milnes back over his head with a well-middled six.
Will Buttleman ended his run of three single-figure scores by opening up the off side with a trio of boundaries. But departed when Blake unleashed his inner Harlem Globetrotter to reach the ball, pop it up, roll over and complete a jaw-dropping diving catch.
Pepper added three more maximums off the spinners before he moved to a third format fifty from 28 balls.
He fell when he top-edged a sweep to short fine leg, but Critchley and Paul Walter - who struck three massive sixes - ticked off the remaining 46 runs with little problem.
Essex head to Hampshire Hawks on Thursday (7pm), then host Middlesex on Friday (7pm).