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Denly junior stars as Spitfires win
Denly junior stars as Spitfires win

A star turn from 17-year-old Jaydn Denly helped the Kent Spitfires to a 60-run victory over Essex in the Metro Bank Cup at Canterbury.

Jack Leaning hit a brilliant 137 from 127 balls and Ben Compton made 65 as Kent recovered from a middle-order collapse to post 287 for eight, but it was Denly, playing in the same team as his uncle Joe for the first time, who stole the show by claiming a wicket, a run out and an outrageous catch, as well as finishing as Kent’s third highest run scorer with 37.

Will Buttleman made an unbeaten 50 and Feroze Khushi hit exactly 50 for Essex but the visitors lost wickets too frequently to mount a credible run chase and they were all out for 227, with 5.1 overs remaining.

Grant Stewart, Hamid Qadri and Matt Parkinson all took two wickets for the Spitfires.

History was made at the Spitfire Ground on Sunday, where Joe and Jaydn became the first uncle and nephew to play since the modern club was formed in 1870, and the first since Fuller Pilch and his nephew William appeared together for the “Grand Old Kent XI” 41 times between 1838 and 1854.

In front of a crowd of 2400 Kent chose to bat, but for a third consecutive game they threw away a promising start, having been 130 for one at halfway.

With Daniel Bell-Drummond back on Hundred duty, Uncle Joe opened, but he was the first wicket to fall when he edged Aaron Beard behind for 17.

Compton and Jack Leaning put on 98 for the second wicket, but after what by his standards was a fairly rapid half-century the former was caught behind off Beau Webster in the 25th.

Webster then bowled Alex Blake for one and Beard strangled Harry Finch down the leg side for seven.

Jaydn Denly joined Leaning to steer Kent past 200 but he was bowled for 37 attempting to sweep Webster and Kent’s hopes of passing 300 vanished in the 43rd over, when Aron Nijjar struck twice.

Grant Stewart was out first ball when he played on and Hamid Qadri had made just one when he chipped the bowler to Webster.

When Matt Quinn then drove Richards straight to Nijjar at mid-on four wickets had fallen for five runs in 10 balls, 250 looked a long way off and Leaning was in danger of running out of partners until Jas Singh came in and played the Jack Leach role. Smart running between the wickets saw Leaning to the brink of three figures, which he reached when he punched Beard for a single through mid-on and he then launched an assault in the last two overs.

The 29th, bowled by Ben Allison, went for 13 and a pivotal 27 then came of the 50th, with Leaning hitting Beard for three leg-side sixes and Singh ending on two not out after a match-turning unbeaten stand of 69 from 44 legitimate balls.

Essex were 33 without loss in reply when Luc Benkenstein was run out by Jaydn Denly chasing a second.

Quinn then nearly had Tom Westley caught behind for a duck and although the ball came lose as the diving Finch hit he ground, he was caught behind off Stewart for two in the next over, the seventh.

Webster came in and put some pressure back on the bowlers, but he was out for 26 from 25 balls when Jaydn Denly had him caught at long on by Blake.

The younger Denly then produced what was arguably the game’s champagne moment when he took a sensational diving catch to remove Khushi, who’d just reached 50 and was trying to hit Matt Parkinson through cow corner.

Hamid Qadri struck with only his fourth ball, when he had Noah Thain caught by Stewart at mid-off for 141, before claiming the key wicket of Charlie Allison, lbw for 44.

Parkinson trapped Ben Allison lbw for seven in the 38th and in the next over Beard went in the same fashion to Leaning for two.

Leaning then caught and bowled Jamal Richards with his next delivery and although Buttleman hit the hat-trick ball for six Kent sealed the win when Stewart had Nijjar caught by the sub fielder Nathan Gilchrist.

Kent remain in the hunt for a place for the knock-out stages, but will probably need to win at Hampshire on Tuesday and hope results elsewhere in Group A go their way.

Kent’s Jack Leaning said: “I think we ended up with a really good score in the end. We probably thought it was more towards a 300 pitch, slightly better than the one we played on the other day so when we lost those wickets in the middle it was important that at least one of us took stock and that one of us was there at the end, which is probably where we’ve fallen down in the last couple of games and we’ve missed out on those big overs towards the back end.

“I enjoyed it, I think an innings like that has been coming for a while. It’s been quite a frustrating year, I’ve had a lot of starts and scores where I’ve not gone on, so it was really important for me to get stuck in and put in a match -winning performance for the team. I tried to play quite smartly towards the end with Jas and pick up as many twos as I could, try and keep the strike and make sure I targeted the last couple of overs. Luckily today it came off.

“Jas played his part perfectly. It’s a partnership, you need two people out there and he played his part really smartly. He blocked the balls that he needed to and ran really hard to get me on strike as well.

“I got my highest List A score when I was quite young so it was about time I broke it to be honest. It just knock-out cricket now for however long we go into it.”

Kent’s Joe Denly said: “It was pretty cool (to be playing with Jaydn). I didn’t really think too much about it this morning to be honest. I think I was more nervous in his first couple of games because I wanted him to look the part and not look out of his depth, but I think he’s grown every game.

“His confidence is getting better and better. With the bat that was a really mature innings he played, given the position we were in, to hang around with Jack. They got a really good partnership there. He’s a really good, promising, all-round cricketer. With the ball as well and in the field he got a great run out and a great catch so I’m chuffed to bits for him.

“It was (an emotional occasion) handing his cap to him at The Oval. I’ve presented a few caps but this one was a little bit different and I suppose there were more emotions involved. It was a really proud moment for all the family.

(When he was hit in the collar bone off Jaydn’s bowling.)

“He thought I’d made a meal of it. There was a chance when Khushi chipped Quinny over mid-off and I didn’t quite get there. He reminded me that ten tears ago that I might have got there!”

(On Jaydn’s spectacular catch of Khushi) “You’re supposed to take those when you’re 17.”

Essex’s Anthony McGrath said: “I think generally we’re disappointed with how it’s gone. We know we’re threadbare with the squad and we had a few young players, but still, when you’re playing for Essex and representing Essex we expect to win games no matter what team we put out.

“I just think we’ve been sloppy throughout the tournament. The youngsters who’ve come in have done really well but probably if we’re honest the senior lads we’ve got, lads with a bit more experience have not really gone well and it’s affected the overall team performance.

“It’s the same story, we’ve been in games and we’ve had a bad four or five overs with the ball or with the bat when we’ve lost clusters of wickets. Again today we thought we could have chased them down but we got ourselves in good positions and ten lost wickets, so it’s very, very frustrating.

“It can happen, particularly with the team we’ve put out, but we expect better.

“It was good to have Feroze back, it was such a disappointment that he got injured in the Surrey game and missed finals day and a couple of championship games. He looked class today and showed what we’ve missed at the top of the order.

“Charlie Allison has been superb. I think if you just look how he’s gone about it, his level of performance for someone who’s hardly played second team cricket never mind first team has really been superb throughout the whole thing. He hasn’t been overawed, hasn’t looked out of place and he keeps putting in performances.”