Spifires smash Middlesex to book slot
Spifires smash Middlesex to book slot

Elliot Hooper enjoyed a dream debut as Kent routed Middlesex for their lowest ever Vitality Blast score of 80 at Lord’s and in the process the Spitfitres booked a home Quarter Final tie.

Thee 25-year-old left-armer, one of seven debutants for the visitors because of a Covid-19 outbreak, took 3-24 in the 77-run victory – the hosts failing to reach their previous worst tally of 92 made against Surrey at Lord’s eight years ago.

Fellow new boys Matthew Quinn, Safyaan Sharif and Marcus O’Riordan were also among the wickets, all this after Harry Finch top scored with 47 and Heino Kuhn made 42 in Kent’s total of 157-8, Blake Cullen taking 4-33.

Another of the Kent new boys George Munsey swept the second ball of the match from Mujeeb Ur Rahman for six but departed later in the first over.

Kuhn was then dropped at point by Joe Cracknell from Tom Helm’s first ball and he and skipper Zak Crawley set about the host’s attack.

Crawley hit three sixes as 50 came up in the sixth over, but attempting a fourth he was brilliantly caught by Max Holden at deep square – the first of Cullen’s four victims.

Kuhn and Harry Finch continued the onslaught helped by a succession of mis-fields, adding 65 in 43 balls, meaning the visitors were sitting pretty at 118-2 early in the 13th over.

However, Kuhn holing  out in the deep off the excellent Sowter sparked a turning point as runs dried up and wickets tumbled.

Finch tried to hold things together making hitting six fours, in his 35-ball stay but just 40 runs came from the last eight overs

Chasing 158 for a rare win the hosts simply fell to pieces. Sam Robson was yorked by Quinn and when the dangerous Joe Cracknell pulled Podmore straight into the hands of deep square they were 16-2.

And it 20-3 when New Zealand international Daryl Mitchell was trapped lbw by  Sharif, who returned two for 10.

By this stage Middlesex needed snookers. But there was to be no revival.

Hooper trapped Middlesex debutant Varun Chopra in front before Podmore (2-12) returned to have John Simpson caught at short mid-on.

Holden was caught on the fence to give O’Riordan his first Blast wicket and the procession continued as Hooper scattered Sowter’s stumps.

Helm. Hooper’s other victim and Mujeeb were the only players other than Chopra to reach double figures as the hosts were bowled out with 21 balls to spare.

Kent spinner Elliot Hooper said: “The last week has been manic with getting the call to run drinks at the County Championship match and then today to be told I was going to make my debut at Lord’s for Kent – it’s a dream come true.

“The new lads have blended together really nicely and it’s great to help out the boys who are in isolation and get them the home quarter-final they deserve.

“For everyone else missing out it is really tough, but for me it’s an opportunity and when that presents itself, taking it and doing well is the best you can do. 

“It’s great because I’m getting on a bit now, but as a spinner the older I get the more I’m learning my craft. I feel if I’d been a bit less experienced coming in today  I would have just bowled quick, quick, quick into the wicket, whereas at 25 I was able to back myself a little more and chill out.” 

Middlesex head coach Stuart Law said: “It went wrong from the outset. Our fielding was substandard, some of our bowling was indifferent and when you drop catches, especially good players they do punish you.

“We did pretty well to drag it back towards the back end of the innings by taking some wickets and stopping them scoring, but when we batted we looked as if we just wanted to survive rather than score the runs.

“Losing a game is losing a game, but it is how you lose and we lost horrendously tonight and that’s down to us, we played poorly. 

“Give Kent credit too. They had a lot of people in their team that weren’t on their books three weeks ago, but they got an opportunity and they grabbed it and ran with it. They showed more heart, more desire and more passion.”