Kent get T20 blast underway with a win
Kent get T20 blast underway with a win

England Lions batsman Daniel Bell-Drummond spanked an unbeaten 90 from 55 balls to steer Kent Spitfires to a comfortable seven-wicket NatWest T20 Blast win over Essex Eagles in Beckenham.

Bell-Drummond put his poor championship form behind him by hitting eight fours and four sixes as Kent eased home with nine balls to spare for their first south group win of the campaign. Essex, who lost narrowly in a tight run-chase at home to Surrey on Friday night, were again seriously out-gunned and are left looking for their first
victory in two starts.

Responding to the Eagles’ total of 166 for eight, Spitfires made a flying start as Joe Denly, who hit a championship 180 on this ground against Northamptonshire earlier in the week, clubbed 23 off the second over from Mohammad Amir. Fresh from his Champions Trophy win with Pakistan, Amir went for three sixes and a four as Kent’s openers
posted 50 in five overs.

After adding 32 from 16 balls, Denly heaved across the line to be bowled by off-spinner Simon Harmer bringing together Sam Northeast and Bell-Drummond for a sparkling partnership worth 70 from 49 balls.

The pair drove with gusto and ran excellently to draw a string of Essex fielding errors as the hosts cantered to 94 at the mid-point of their reply.

Bell-Drummond raised the first 50 of the match from 32 balls and with six fours and a six as, in his desperation to take a wicket Ryan ten Doeschate, the Essex skipper, made five bowling changes in as many overs.

Eagles’ ploy finally succeeded when Northeast’s miscued reverse sweep against Harmer sailed to backward point to end his stay for 33.

Sam Billings perished for six when edging a sweep leg-side to James Foster from Asha Zaidi’s first delivery of the game, but Bell-Drummond could not be shifted.

The 23-year-old lofted Jamie Porter for a brace of sixes to ensure Spitfires remained well ahead of the asking rate and, for good measure, hit a fourth six from a short-arm punt over long on against Amir to win the game at a canter.

Batting first after winning the toss, Essex made a reasonable start through openers Varun Chopra and Tamim Iqbal, the dasher from Bangladesh.

Chopra lifted a huge six over square leg off the third ball of the match from Adam Milne, who conceded another maximum in his next over when Tamim drove straight over the bowler’s head. The Kiwi paceman extracted immediate revenge however, bowling Tamim (7) with a slower ball as the diminutive left-hander advanced to drive.

Eagles mustered 43 for from their powerplay forcing Chopra to up the pace with a risky, leg-side flick for six off Darren Stevens that just cleared the ropes at square leg. The visitors continued to struggle
for their timing on this Worsley Bridge Road pitch and lost Tom Westley (13) to a yorker from Jimmy Neesham, Milne’s Black Caps team-mate who was also making his home debut.

Chopra was just three shy of his 50 when he chipped leg-side against off-spinner James Tredwell to pick out Denly at deep mid-wicket as Tredwell finished his four overs with fine figures of one for 18.

Ten Doeschate posted his side’s 100 with a pulled four against Milne as he and fourth-wicket partner Ravi Bopara – the duo boast almost 350 T20 appearances between them – added 73 in 6.1 overs before falling in successive overs.

Ten Doeschate, with 38 to his name off 18 balls, holed out to deep mid-wicket, then, after scoring 45 from 33 balls, Bopara chipped to long-on to be caught low by Alex Blake and give Milne figures of two for 24.

Three wickets fell in a dramatic final over from Neesham, who sent three packing in successive deliveries. Foster (9) was caught on the ropes at deep cover, Ashar Zaidi was (1) superbly caught and bowled as Neesham ran toward cover then Neesham athletically turned and threw in his follow-through to run out Paul Walter with a direct hit to the
non-striker’s end.

Neesham finished with 3-37 leaving Kent to face an asking rate of 8.35 to win their opening Blast south group game for the fourth successive season.

The hosts had been forced into a late change ahead of the game when Mitch Claydon, part of their Antipodean pace-bowling triumvirate, pulled out after picking up a side strain niggle in the warm-ups giving all-rounder Adam Ball the chance for his 38th T20 appearance.