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Spitfires crash to Middlesex defeat
Spitfires crash to Middlesex defeat

Middlesex have beaten the Kent Spitfires by four wickets in Vitality Blast at Canterbury after a brilliant fight back in the field.

Luke Hollman pulled Matt Parkinson for the winning six with four balls remaining, after Ryan Higgins 44 hit from 29 balls and Stephen Eskinazi made 40.

Middlesex finished on 178 for six and the win followed a superb recovery with the ball: at one point they looked likely to be chasing a target of well over 200.

Daniel Bell-Drummond made 60 from 38 balls but after plundering 118 from the first 11 overs, Kent were restricted to 173 for eight, Hollman taking two for 18 and Tom Helm two for 24.

The visitors chose to field and Tom Helm got Zak Crawley for four when he drove the third ball of the innings straight to Martin Andersson at extra cover.

Blake Cullen then sent Tawanda Muyeye’s leg stump flying for 12 but Bell-Drummond and Marcus O’Riordan countered with a rapid stand of 66 from 29 balls.

Higgins had the latter lbw for 28 and Sam Billings was bowled for 10 by Hollman, trying to reverse sweep.

The run rate dipped drastically after Bell-Drummond holed out to Hollman and was caught by Leus du Plooy. Joey Evison played on to Josh de Caires and was bowled for four and Kent couldn’t manage a single boundary in overs 15 to 17.

The 18th went for 15 but the last two went for just 10 after Joe Denly skied Helm to Eskinazi for 28 and Beyers Swanepoel swiped Henry Brookes to the same fielder for eight.

Kent reverted to their title-winning strategy of 2021 by throwing the ball to Denly and he took his 50th T20 wicket when he trapped Andersson lbw for a five-ball duck.

Yet the visitors again rallied: Eskinazi hit the first sixes of the match and looked well set until he tried to ramp Swanepoel and played on.

Kent’s hopes rose again when Xavier Bartlett pinned Higgins at the start of the 13th and three balls later he sent du Plooy’s off stump flying for 18.

Max Holden hit Grant Stewart for successive fours but then ramped him straight to Matt Parkinson and was out for 17.

Hollman, however, eased visiting nerves when he hit Parkinson for a six and a four in the 17th and Jack Davies dumped Bartlett’s first ball of the 18th over cow corner for six.

Davies then chipped Bartlett to Evison and was out for 23, but by then Middlesex just needed 11 off the last two overs with four wickets in hand.

De Caires straight drove Swanepoel for four to leave the visitors one blow from victory and with three needed off the last six, Hollman creamed Parkinson over cow corner.

Middlesex’s Stephen Eskinazi said: “It’s brilliant, it was a fantastic all-round performance today. I think after an unreal start from Kent on what ended up being a bit of a sticky used wicket a couple of games had been played on already.

“Certain parties might have thought ‘here we go again’ but it takes bi characters and a lot courage to bounce back in the manner the bowlers did. I was extremely proud of the way we went out there, fought back and wrestled the initiative.

“What we probably did better tonight than we have in the last few games is recognise the time when we can open the door. We smashed the door down with the ball and then we were calm enouh to ice the game with the bat, so it was very pleasing.

“There’s talent and there’s courage that help you win games of cricket and then there’s a shed load of maturity that you need to be abl to show against good opposition in front of big crowds to be able to get the points.

“As I’ve said previously, we’ve played a lot of really good cricket but it doesn’t count for too much unless you get hit that winning run or take that winning wicket, so it was really important that we did that today for the confidence of the group and we showed a fantastic ability to bounce back.”

Kent’s Daniel Bell-Drummond said: “It was a tricky one and I think there were a few points where it went wrong. We got off to a very good start and they bowled really well throughout the middle. They took the pace off on a used wicket. We still thought 170 would be above par but from going at 12s and 11s, to slip to that was probably not idea and then in the field, I think they batted well to be fair.

“It was quite tricky with one short side and they had quite a few left-handers which we didn’t have. Hats off to them, they played well and it wasn’t meant to be.

“We started really well with the ball with Deny picking up an early wicket but they played quite well throughout the powerplay. Eskinazi played well and Higgins carried on. 170 was a decent score but it was never out of reach for them and that ended up being a problem as their left-handers could target our spinners with the short boundaries.

“Bartlett is clearly a world-class player and he’s shown his quality. In that over (the 16th) he could have taken three wickets and that would have completely changed the game. There’s a lot of class with him there and obviously some other player in the team. We’ve won a few and lost a few and it’s time to try and be consistent and get some more wins on the board.”