Spitfires grounded yet again
Spitfires grounded yet again

Laurie Evans blasted an unbeaten 134 to help Sussex land a shock six-wicket Royal London One-Day Cup victory over winless south group rivals Kent in Canterbury.

Evans blasted a maiden white-ball ton off 73 balls and finished unbeaten with nine fours and eight sixes to his name as a lacklustre Spitfires’ attack failed to defend a 300-plus total for the second match running and crumple to a third straight defeat with 16 balls to spare.

Evans, whose previous best in white ball cricket had been a modest 70 for his previous club Warwickshire, savaged a woeful Kent attack that collectively lost their heads.

Visiting openers Chris Nash and Luke Wright made a cracking start to their pursuit of Kent’s 331 for seven at an asking rate of 6.64 an over by clubbing 31 off Mitchell Claydon’s opening three overs.

At the other end, Wayne Parnell kept things much tighter, sending down a maiden in his first three, while Matt Coles replaced Claydon at the Nackington Road End to also open with a maiden.

Wright was offered a life on 21 when Joe Denly downed a tough diving chance at deep square leg, but Nash went for 39 after a toe-ended pull against Matt Coles flew to Bell-Drummond at deep mid-wicket.

Wright, in his 195th List A appearance, posted a 15th half-century in the format from 54 balls but, with 64 to his name, prodded half-forward to depart lbw against Darren Stevens. Stiaan van Syl (1) then lost his off stump when making room to cut, leaving James Tredwell with one for 39 from his 10 overs.

Although the required rate had risen above nine an over, Harry Finch and Laurie Evans ploughed on adding 207 for the fourth wicket. Both reached 50s in the same over, Evans off 48 ball while Finch needed 10 more.

Parnell squared up to Evans on his follow through after a failed appeal for a catch at the wicket, after which Parnell and Coles lost their cool, serving up a glut of wide and short deliveries that the Sharks devoured.

Coles was spared further punishment having conceded 41 off a three-over burst, but Evans and Finch had a stranglehold on the game and they never let go in posting a first List A double century stand in matches between the two counties.

Finch was bowled just short of the win line after scoring 80 off 82 balls, but Evans saw it through to leave Kent, last season’s quarter finalists, totally demoralised.

With the floodlights on from ball one Kent, having lost the toss, made a stuttering start in losing Denly (6) lbw to Jofra Archer’s 20th delivery of the day. Prodding from the crease to a shooting off-cutter, Denly left umpire Ben Debenham with little option but to raise the finger.

Daniel Bell-Drummond and Alex Blake, who both hit centuries against Somerset earlier in the week, led the fightback only to finish on the losing side once more.

Bell-Drummond hit his third successive List A half-century from 52 balls and with five fours and a six, adding 104 for the third wicket inside 20 overs before Sean Dickson (46), prodding with an open bat face, feathered to a tumbling Ben Brown. The Sussex keeper departed soon after with a finger injury, leaving Harry Finch to don the gloves.

Bell-Drummond marched to his fourth List A hundred and his second in successive knocks in this year’s RLODC campaign from 115 balls and with six fours and a brace of sixes. Together with Blake, Kent upped the scoring rate adding 54 in the next five overs with boundaries to all parts.

Their enterprising stand of 74 in 8.3 overs and Bell-Drummond’s run-a-ball knock ended when the right-hander smeared to long-off to go for 138 with nine fours and three sixes. But it all counted for nothing once Evans and Finch got their eye in.

Sussex hero Laurie Evans said: “When I went in today I didn’t think that victory was on our radar, I was just looking to get myself in and build a nice partnership.”

“Sometimes, you just hit one shot and you know your settled and that happened during one over against ‘Stevo’ [Darrren Stevens] when I hit him back over his head. After that, I felt I had the momentum and I calmed down.”

“After that I didn’t really think about the score until I got past 70 and realised that we might take this down. I picked my balls well today, I wasn’t just having a hack and ‘Finchy’ did the same, he was first-class down the other end.”

Evans, who may find himself in disciplinary hot water after his spat with Kent’s Wayne Parnell, added: “Things like that happen in the heat of the battle. He thought I’d nicked it, but I knew I’d hit my pad, and it only helped to steel my mind. We kept cool heads out there.”

Having scored a second successive hundred in a losing cause, Kent’s Daniel Bell-Drummond was understandably downbeat. He said: “It’s a tough one to take for sure. We were backing ourselves to defend that, especially here, but hats off to Laurie for a chanceless 134 not out.

“We can only win all our games from here and see what happens, but this wasn’t the start we’d imagined. I didn’t ever think a win was in the bag today and we needed to keep taking wickets, but it wasn’t to be. We’ve lost three in a row now and it’ll be tough to come back from here.”