Spitfires to kick off T20 campaign
Spitfires to kick off T20 campaign

Kent Spitfires will aim to put their RLODC final disappointments behind them on Friday by displaying their white-ball prowess all over again in their Vitality Blast opener against Surrey at The Kia Oval.

Though out-gunned in losing Saturday’s Lord’s 50-over final to Hampshire by 61-runs, Kent took confidence from their South Group performances overall and in reaching their first Lord’s showpiece in a decade.

Sam Billings’ side will also be boosted by the arrival of West Indies T20I captain Carlos Brathwaite, who is in line to make his Spitfire debut in SE11 on Friday. Brathwaite, who will play in Kent’s opening four T20 qualifiers as locum for Australian all-rounder Marcus Stoinis, is looking forward to his first sojourn into English county cricket.

“I’m very excited to be here at last,” said Brathwaite, the man hailed throughout the West Indies for clubbing four successive sixes off Ben Stokes to win the 2016 T20 World Cup final at Eden Gardens, Kolkata.

“I’ve watched the county game from afar for the past few years and was pleasantly surprised to be approached a month or two back by ‘Bilbo’ [Spitfires’ skipper Sam Billings], who gauged my interest, and I told him ‘I’m definitely interested’. So yes, more than happy to be here.

“I’ve played against ‘Deebs’ [Daniel Bell-Drummond], I met Joe Denly playing for the Sydney Sixers and already knew Sam, so I knew when coming here that knowing a few of the guys in the dressing room would make it real easy to get settled in quickly. The atmosphere since arriving has been really warm and welcoming.”

The gentle giant from Barbados added: “I’ve been following Kent’s progress and know they performed well to get to the 50-over final. Hopefully, I can add something to what has already been a good white-ball campaign for the Spitfires.”

Having travelled to Canterbury on Eurostar from Paris on Monday, Brathwaite was able to feature in Kent’s brace of T20 warm-up matches against a Netherlands development side.

Inspired by Brathwaite’s first-class arrival, Spitfires will be aiming to complete a white-ball double over Surrey having been emphatic 220-run winners in last month’s 50-over match-up in Beckenham. After Heino Kuhn’s 117 helped Kent post 384 for eight – equalling their List A best total – Kent summarily dismissed the Brown Caps for 164 with Darren Stevens bagging a career-best six for 25 as Kent won with 20 overs in hand.

Stevens, who played only a bit-part in last season’s short-form campaign, may well find himself on the T20 periphery again this summer, as could Aussie seamer Mitch Claydon, hitherto Kent’s white-ball death specialist who has struggled for form since suffering an early season hand injury.

Veteran off-spinner James Tredwell, who has yet to feature for the 1st XI this summer due to a shoulder injury, is also likely to miss out. Rookie left-arm spinner Imran Qayyum is likely to deputise, while batsmen Sean Dickson and Zak Crawley will vie for a middle order berth.

Kent’s second overseas professional for the Vitality Blast is New Zealander Adam Milne, a familiar face to Spitfires’ fans having excelled on his first stint with the county last season.

The Black Caps firebrand is seen as a like-for-like replacement for fellow Kiwi, Matt Henry, who has returned home for a squad training camp having taken 49 first-class scalps and 16 List A wickets in a superb first spell with the Hop County. Kent remain hopeful that Henry will be allowed to return later in the championship campaign to boost their promotion credentials.


 
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