Spitfires edged out at Bristol
Spitfires edged out at Bristol
Gloucestershire’s bowlers took advantage of home comforts to beat Kent Spitfires by five runs in a tense finish at Bristol and register back-to-back wins in the Vitality Blast South Group.

Jack Taylor top-scored with an unbeaten 42 as Gloucestershire, put into bat on a used wicket, posted 184-7 in their 20 overs.

South African batsman Heino Kuhn threatened to carry the visitors to victory, but once he departed for 44 in the 14th over, Gloucestershire successfully applied the squeeze as Kent, beaten for the first time in the competition, came up short on 179-8.

Looking to go the short route to victory, Sam Billings clubbed 24 from 11 balls, including three imperious sixes, before giving Tom Smith’s slow left arm the charge and losing his off stump. Equally belligerent, Alex Blake drove a length ball from Ryan Higgins to extra cover and departed for nine, while Carlos Brathwaite was bowled by a Matt Taylor in-swinger as Kent’s much-vaunted top six miss-fired.

Adopting a more circumspect approach on a sluggish pitch that better-suited Gloucestershire’s slower bowlers, Kuhn represented Kent’s best chance of making it three wins from as many matches. When the South African offered a return catch to Kieran Noema-Barnett in the 14th over, the visitors were 106-6, needing a further 78 from 6.9 overs.

Callum Haggett and Sean Dickson staged a restorative stand of 49 for the seventh wicket to keep the visitors in the hunt, only for Higgins to run out the former at the non-striker’s end with a sharp piece of fielding that put Gloucestershire in the ascendancy.

Kent needed 19 runs to win off the last over, but were undone by Jack Taylor’s throw from long-on that saw Dickson run out for 32 off the penultimate ball.

Billed as Michael Klinger’s big Bristol homecoming, this game instead provided a platform for Kent’s leg-spinning all-rounder Joe Denly to further showcase his talent. Fresh from becoming the first man in global T20 history to claim a hat-trick and score a hundred in the same match, the 32-year-old former England international carried on where he left off against Surrey, inducing Klinger to hole out to long-on for ten in the seventh over, cutting short the Australian’s first appearance at headquarters in almost a year.

The ubiquitous Denly had already held a catch at backward point to remove pinch-hitting opener Miles Hammond and he returned in the ninth over to bowl Ian Cockbain, returning figures of 2-40 from four overs.

At least Cockbain, who registered 29 from 23 balls and dominated a stand of 41 for the second wicket with Klinger, ensured Gloucestershire were able to maintain a respectable rate despite the loss of early wickets.

When Gareth Roderick was pinned lbw by Haggett, the hosts were 82-4 at the halfway point, their innings in urgent need of fresh impetus. Recalled in the absence of injured all-rounder Benny Howell, Noema-Barnett provided mid-innings acceleration, raising 31 from 14 balls with 3 fours and 2 sixes before hoisting Brathwaite to long-on.

Brathwaite then had the dangerous Higgins held at mid-wicket by Kuhn for 22, at which point the home side were 147-6 in the 17th over and almost entirely dependent upon the hard-hitting Jack Taylor to usher them to a competitive total.

Gloucestershire’s white ball talisman duly obliged, combining deft placement with brute power to harvest 4 fours and a brace of sixes, his enterprising innings of 42 not out serving to propel Gloucestershire to respectability.

Gloucestershire man of the match Jack Taylor said: “We decided we needed to go hard with the bat, especially in the top five. There was no point being careful and ending up with 150, which would not have been enough we needed to take risks and it came off.

“We fancied ourselves to defend that at Bristol and boys held their nerve at the death. We had a couple of players missing, but others stepped up and that’s back-to-back wins in a competition we aim to reach the knock-out stages in.”

Kent skipper Sam Billings said: “We had an opportunity to make it three wins in a row, but it’s about fine lines and we just fell short in one or two key areas.

“I thought we bowled reasonably well as a unit, but we lost wickets at key moments and left ourselves with a bit too much to do. Credit to Gloucestershire, who kept their cool at the end.”