Spitfires crash out of T20 Blast
Spitfires crash out of T20 Blast

Cameron Delport’s cavalier 64 set Essex Eagles up to beat Kent Spitfires by 10 runs and qualify for the Vitality Blast quarter-finals.

The Eagles had appeared like they were crashing out of the Blast but three wins in their last four fixtures, with seven unbeaten saw them sneak through on net run-rate.

On the flip side, Kent had won their six of their first seven matches before a horrid run-in where they failed to win any of their last seven fixtures to be eliminated.

Zak Crawley had seemingly put Kent in control of the chase of 190 with his exemplarity 89 from 55 balls, thrashing his previous T20 best of 59.

But he departed with 40 still needed from four over and the last seven wickets fell in an almost procession-like fashion as Porter defended 16 from the final over.

Essex’s 189, having won the toss and decided to bat, was underpinned by a half-century from Delport and Ravi Bopara’s unbeaten 47.

Having seen five dot balls in his first six deliveries faced, Crawley got the Spitfires’ chase off to a strong start – with back-to-back boundaries off Porter followed-up with a huge six off Adam Zampa.

He lost Daniel Bell-Drummond, caught at mid-wicket, but powered his way to his second fifty of the tournament, from 28 balls.

Faf du Plessis joined Crawley and dispatched Porter and Simon Harmer for sixes during a 63-run stand, before he was caught low down at mid-wicket and Sam Billings skied to cow corner.

Crawley’s swashbuckling was ended on a personal T20 high of 88 when he picked out Harmer at long-off.

With 28 still needed from 16 balls Heino Kuhn was bowled by Bopara, before Ollie Robinson holed out three balls later and Mohammad Amir yorked Blake and Qayyum in successive deliveries.

Porter cleaned up the game with two wickets in his final over heroics to see Essex through.

Delport started with a flurry as he used his levers to power a six down the ground, before following it up with a cut four off Alex Blake’s first over.

But while the South African found boundaries at will, wickets fluttered at the other end – with Tom Westley and Adam Wheater falling in the Powerplay.

Delport received a life when he was put down on 22, but further sixes – off his legs, down the ground, on the sweep and over long on – helped him pass fifty for the third time in the Blast.

But he and Ryan ten Doeschate both fell to part-time medium pace bowler Daniel Bell-Drummond to leave the Eagles 112 for five, and with fears being bowled out.

However, Bopara, who was spilled on 35, continued where he left off against Surrey the previous evening, where he smashed 70 not out, with three fours and a pair of sixes, the last of which rounded off the innings.

Bopara has now scored 116 over two innings without being dismissed, with Paul Walter and Harmer playing useful cameos at the other end.

Essex all-rounder Ravi Bopara:

“That was easily the most incredible qualification of my career.

“At half-way through we were nowhere and with the rain as well we thought ‘no, we aren’t qualifying’.

“We’ve snuck in through the back door. We had a chance mathematically, but if we’re being brutally honest there was no chance, really.

“In our minds, we were like – it’s going to take ridiculous results to go our way.

“The fact that it happened is just unreal. I think guys just went ‘look, it doesn’t matter now, it doesn’t matter now, let’s just go out there and express ourselves, and go for it’.

“It’s come off. Some of those games were close – it’s amazing you can qualify by a width of a hair.”

Kent batsman Sam Billings:

“It is hugely disappointing.

“The side has changed dramatically with Nabi and Milne two huge misses. The balance of the side meant we were a batsman and bowler short.

“We haven’t deserve to go through to be honest. In the backend of the tournament we haven’t played anywhere near our ability.

“We lost our nerve at the important moments. You might expect it once but for it to happen three times in a row is tough to take. It is hugely draining and frustrating.

“There have been so many people talking about Zak. He is a class act. He will play for England and will be as good as he wants to be.

“Tonight is a matter of other people, myself included, who haven’t stepped up and didn’t bat with him. We needed one more played to have a partnership with him and we would have won that game.”

THE TURNING POINT: Zak Crawley had played a masterful hand to reach 89 but his rare mishit straight down the ground stunted Kent. They lost their seven wickets for 29 runs afterwards.

BALL OF THE MATCH: Mohammad Amir’s yorker to dismiss Alex Blake was inch perfect, and exactly what you expect from your overseas. It was also the perfect comeback after Hardus Viljoen had struck two fours in the over.

UNSUNG HERO: On a run-heavy night Ravi Bopara’s four overs only going for 27 was impressive, with the two quick-fire, and well-timed, wickets integral to Essex’s victory.

WHAT’S NEXT: Essex will face Lancashire at Emirates Riverside in the Vitality Blast quarter-final on Wednesday. Kent are eliminated from the Blast and will tackle Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge on September 10.