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Spitfires crash in Chelmsford
Spitfires crash in Chelmsford

Tom Westley steered Essex to their first Royal London Cup win of the season with the sixth one-day century of his career as the Kent Spitfires were thrashed.

The Essex captain laid the foundations for a 182-run demolition of Kent in the latest Battle of the Bridge with a third-wicket partnership of 184 in 30 overs with newcomer Grant Roelofsen. Westley contributed 109 from 101 balls, while Roelofsen chipped in with a 79-ball 77, his 14th score above fifty in List A cricket, the others in his native South Africa.

However, that Essex were able to set a target of 332 was largely thanks to a late burst of 41 from 22 deliveries by Shane Snater that steadied a ship that at one stage looked in danger of running aground. Kent’s 20-year-old seamer Joey Evison took some stick but finished with career-best figures of 3-62.

Ben Compton anchored the Kent reply, but without injecting any urgency or pace into his innings of 52 from 82 balls as wickets fell all around him. Snater finally removed Compton to take five wickets in 14 balls and return List A-best figures of 5-29.

Westley and Roelofsen joined forces after Essex – who elected to bat on a phew-what-a-scorcher sort of afternoon on a flat pitch – lost two wickets in six balls. Feroze Khushi was first to go when he got a leading edge to give Quinn a return catch. Fellow opener Josh Rymell followed lbw to one that rapped his upper thigh.

Westley accelerated through his eighties, the handbrake off, with three fours in an over from Nathan Gilchrist that ultimately cost 19 runs. A characteristic flick off his legs for his 13th four took Westley to a 96-ball century.

Roelofsen’s anchorman role came to an end after 79 balls with a momentary lapse of concentration when Navdeep Saini sent his middle-stump cartwheeling. Westley followed almost immediately when he scooped Joe Denly to Evison on the fence at long-on.

That wicket-taking combination was reversed with Denly taking a spectacular diving catch at mid-on off Evison to account for Aaron Beard. Four balls later Aron Nijjar, like Westley, picked out Evison on the rope to hand Qadri a wicket.

With Essex slipping from 217-2 to 250-6 in five overs, it needed some agricultural hitting from Snater to push Essex towards a defendable total.

Saini lost his composure completely with two balls above waist height to Robin Das that forced him out of the attack in the midst of an over. The second free-hit was smashed for six over square leg.

More drama was to come as Quinn contributed a wide of his own to the 10-ball over, which concluded with Das finding Finch on the midwicket boundary to end a 49-run partnership inside four overs with Snater.

In response, Kent were never really in the chase. They lost Tawanda Muyeye in the sixth over trying to play Jamie Porter to leg but falling to Robin Das at point. Ollie Robinson attacked from the start, hitting two sixes in his 31 before he flicked Porter to deep extra cover where Shane Snater took a one-handed, rolling catch. Snater’s drop of Denly was not costly as three runs later Khushi took a stunning catch above his head at short cover.

Kent’s fourth wicket went when Alex Blake flicked Jamal Richards into Beard’s hands on the square-leg boundary. Harry Finch managed just a dozen from 28 balls before he chipped Snater to mid-on.

Evison followed going for a suicidal second run to Snater in the deep and Roelofsen, behind the stumps, completed the run-out.

All the time Compton was slowly accumulating, but at no great pace. His fifty took 76 balls – Westley’s had taken 44, Roelofsen 52 – and included just two fours. But as soon as he had raised his bat, he started to run out of partners as Snater claimed three wickets in an over before completing the rout by removing Compton.

Shane Snater who enjoyed a fine all-round performance following up his 41 with a fine catch, a run out and then career-best figures of 5 for 29.

“It was tough game for me in our previous game (at Northampton) but you have to put those bad experiences behind you and just move on to the next game. So it was nice to bounce back today and help Essex put in a good performance.

“Tom (Westley) and Grant (Roelofsen) set a good platform for us and maybe we could have got a few more but at the end, I think we were happy with our total.

“I took a catch although I did drop one and had a run out, scored a few runs  so I had a good game all- round but the most pleasing thing was that we got a win on the board. It’s always good to get a five-for especially in white-ball cricket, it’s not often that they come round so I have to enjoy it when I can.

“It was important for us to win today and there is a good vibe around the group and hopefully we can come back on Sunday when we play Glamorgan and put in another good performance. They beat us in the  semi-final last year so hopefully we can get revenge  on Sunday.”

Kent coach Simon Cook said: “The toss was actually the difference. You come here on a pitch that wasn’t obviously used, but it had been used earlier on in the year for a four-day game. We knew it was going to deteriorate and get worse. We were planning to bat first as well. They definitely got the best of the batting conditions. We saw that once we had taken the wickets of Westley and Roelofsen that wickets fell pretty swiftly for them as well.

“But as our innings went on you saw that batting became harder and harder. To be fair to them they knew how they were going to bowl on it – they bowled lots of cutters and used the big side really well – and the run rate got strangled. As a result the pressure builds and you lose a couple of wickets and the snowball becomes bigger and bigger until you see the end result which is us 150 all out.

“The only thing I said to the players after this innings was that I don’t think we needed to go into our shells, even on a pitch like this. We needed to take strong, positive, calculated options. I felt we were probably a bit timid and we could have fired a couple of punches back at them for them to think about. I want to see us not go into our shells and still maintain that positive outlook which we’ve had at the start of this tournament.”