Neesham keeping Spitfires dreams alive
Neesham keeping Spitfires dreams alive

With his Black Caps team-mate Adam Milne injured and on the sidelines Kent’s other Kiwi all-rounder Jimmy Neesham has stepped up to the plate to keep Spitfires NatWest T20 Blast qualification dream alive.

The 26-year-old from Auckland, who already has Indian Premier League experience with Delhi Daredevils and Kolkata Night Riders to his name, has impressed with his no-nonsense batting and intelligent medium-paced bowling as Kent continue to cling on to the coattails of the south group’s top four.

Neesham has already hit two half-centuries in this season’s Blast and, after his first none appearances for Sam Northeast’s side, averages 38.50 with the bat. Added to which, Neesham is joint top wicket-taker having picked up eight scalps for Kent who moved up to fifth in the table after Tuesday night’s five-run win over Hampshire at The Ageas Bowl.

“My wicket of Liam Dawson was part of the comeback but the way Mitch Claydon and Matt Coles closed up the last two overs was exceptional,” said Neesham after Kent’s fourth win of the 2017 campaign.

“We knew we were behind the eight ball for much of that second innings but knew that with a couple of good overs we’d be right back in it and the way the guys delivered at the death did the job for us.

“I said before that 160 was about on par on that pitch. The way their spinners Dawson and Shahid Afridi bowled it was tough to get the ball away when they put it in the right areas.

“You look at the group and we are two points off second and a point off last. Everyone has work to do to get to the quarter finals.”

Neehsam & Co take on Sussex Sharks at The Spitfire Ground, St Lawrence tomorrow night [Friday] when local bragging rights will be up for grabs after the two sides tied in last month’s first meeting – a rain-shortened encounter in Hove.

Neesham hit an unbeaten 51 off 30 balls in that game and bowled a tidy, two-over stint of one for 16. More of the same under the Canterbury lights tomorrow can only improve Kent’s chances of securing a quarter final berth for 2017’s short-form extravaganza.

Superb death bowling was the difference for Kent in a fine NatWest T20 Blast win at Hampshire on Tuesday after some under-par displays earlier in the group stage.

Head coach Matt Walker said: “It’s not easy for a fast bowler, or any bowler in T20 cricket. If you look around the division at the scores posted, particularly in the powerplay overs, it’s brutal.

“Sometimes we might be quick to criticise our bowlers but they are working very hard on their variations and bowling to our fields.

“The death bowlers held their nerve well and the captain was brilliant in juggling the bowlers around to keep the batsmen guessing.

“We still haven’t produced an all-round performance with bat and ball but we trust the group of players. We have an exciting batting line-up and you often only need one or two players to come off to win a game. That’s the nature of the format.

“It’s a very tough group and everyone is capable of beating everyone.”

New Zealand paceman Adam Milne misses out as he continues his recovery from a thigh injury.

Sussex have injury doubts over former skipper Luke Wright (back) and England T20 paceman Tymal Mills returns to the squad.

Kent Spitfires squad: 23 Daniel Bell-Drummond, 6 Joe Denly, 17 Sam Northeast (c), 7 Sam Billings (wk), 83 Jimmy Neesham, 10 Alex Blake, 3 Darren Stevens, 25 Calum Haggett, 26 Matt Coles, 15 James Tredwell, 8 Mitch Claydon, 11 Imran Qayyum

Sussex Sharks squad: 23 Chris Nash, 28 Phil Salt, 16 Ross Taylor (c), 26 Ben Brown (wk), 32 Laurie Evans, 96 David Wiese, 8 Chris Jordan, 74 Stiaan van Zyl, 22 Jofra Archer, 18 Will Beer, 21 Danny Briggs, 27 George Garton, 7 Tymal Mills


The clash with Sussex also marks the first match of Kent’s 166th running of Canterbury Week – the world’s oldest cricket festival which, for 2017, includes four separate fixtures.

From Sunday Kent take on The West Indians in a three-day friendly when the hosts are likely to make several selection changes on their return to red-ball cricket.

Sean Dickson, who has not featured in the short-form games, seems set to return to action and could open the innings with 19-year-old Zack Crawley, a product of Tonbridge School who has been in fine form for the Kent 2nd XI this summer, who is in line for a first-class debut.

Then, on Wednesday, August 9, St Lawrence plays host to a junior ODI between England Under-19s and their counterparts from India.

Spitfires wrap up Canterbury Week by welcoming Hampshire on Friday evening for their penultimate home qualifier against Hampshire starting at 7pm.

Kent Spitfires v Sussex Sharks match facts

The Sharks have earned only a solitary win in their last six meetings with the Spitfires (T1, L4).

Kent Spitfires will be searching to avoid back-to-back losses on home turf for the first time since June 2015.

Sussex Sharks have been victorious in eight of their last 12 matches on the road (L4).

Stiaan van Zyl blasted 42* off only 22 balls in the most recent away game involving Sussex Sharks (191 SR).