Spitfires edged out in Canterbury thriller
Spitfires edged out in Canterbury thriller

Kent Spitfires suffered their second defeat of their 2020 T20 Blast campaign on Wednesday as they succumbed to a two-run defeat to Middlesex.

The visitors posted 184/6 from their 20 overs, largely thanks to Joe Cracknell’s maiden T20 50, and Kent, though coming close, could only manage 182/7 in reply, despite captain Daniel Bell-Drummond’s impressive 89.

Kent, unchanged from a convincing win over Hampshire on Monday, won the toss and opted to chase, and they started well with opening bowlers Joe Denly and Matt Milnes conceding just four runs between them off the first two overs, and the pressure paid off when Fred Klaassen picked up Max Holden off his first ball – caught at mid-off by Daniel Bell-Drummond for four.

But it soon started to unravel for the hosts. James Cracknell’s introduction triggered a rapid acceleration for Middlesex – opener and leading run scorer in the tournament Stevie Eskinazi hit the first boundary of the game off the first ball of the fourth over and Matt Milnes’ second over, and the over turned into a disastrous one for Kent and Milnes. Two fours and a six off a no ball later, Middlesex found themselves 29/1 off four over having bashed Milnes for 22.

Joe Denly was then hit for three fours in a row, followed by an over of 17 off Klaassen. At the end of the powerplay, despite a slow start, Middlesex were 64/1 and well in control.

Cracknell carried on firing and raced to his 50 from 21 balls, with nine fours and one six to his name. He was, however, making his way back to the dressing room the ball after raising his bat, pinned LBW by Stewart, though for a very handy half century.

Kent tried to rally as new man Martin Andersson was stumped brilliantly by Jordan Cox off the bowling of Imran Qayyum for just one, but John Simpson restored some order to the Middlesex innings as he moved the ball around nicely and began to build a good partnership with Eskinazi.

Said partnership reached 38 in good time, but Eskinazi was run out by Daniel Bell-Drummond for 26 off the first ball of the 13th over, perhaps unfortunately as he slipped turning to move back into his crease, which he would have done easily had he not fallen.

A big wicket for Kent, removing the key man, but 20-year-old Luke Hollman made his way to the middle and got up to pace with Simpson’s attacking approach quickly.

Bell-Drummond dropped a tough chance to dismiss Simpson off the bowling of Milnes with the left-hander on 34 as the partnership continued to grow, reaching 70 before Simpson was run out for 46 by Milnes. Hollman, who had too reached 46, was also run out, off the last ball of the innings trying to run a bye, but Middlesex posted a more than respectable 184 on the board thanks to Cracknell, Simpson and Hollman, but also due to some wayward Kent bowling – Qayyum (1/25) the standout for the home side, but Denly (0/35 from three), Milnes (0/47 off four) and Klaassen (1/40 off four) all went for over 10 an over.

Kent would still have been confident at the halfway stage with their batting strength and the firepower partnership of Bell-Drummond and recent centurion Zak Crawley at the top of the order, but Crawley wwas in the first over of the innings, caught by Cummins at mid-on off the bowling of Helm for just one.

Tim Murtagh backed up his partner with a good first over which went for just four singles, but, with the already high rate rising, new batsman Joe Denly realised he needed to accelerate, and charged the last two balls of Helm’s over to score a six followed by a four.

But he was soon back in the hut. The England batsman tamely chipped Murtagh to Eskinazi at cover, leaving Kent in some trouble, and Bell-Drummond could only stand and watch as Kuhn (11), Blake (six) and Leaning (14) all departed cheaply.

First to go was Kuhn, caught by Eskinazi trying to drive Cummins, then Blake, caught excellently down the leg side by Simpson off Steven Finn, and then Leaning, caught by Sowter in the deep off Murtagh. 

Jordan Cox was in at seven for Kent, and he provided Bell-Drummond, who easily passed his 50, with the partner he needed, hanging around with the Spitfires needing over 13 an over going into the final stages, hitting three fours and two sixes on his way to an eventual not out score of 39.

The penultimate over was smashed for 16, leaving Kent needing just nine runs from the final over and probably favourites from almost nowhere. Unfortunately for them, Bell-Drummond was dismissed for a brilliant 89 off the first ball of the Helm over, and Grant Stewart could only nudge the ball around before being run out off the penultimate ball returning for a second run.

That left number nine Matt Milnes needing to score a four off the last ball for Kent to win, but he could only manage a single and Middlesex won the tie by two runs. They move onto eight points in the south group with Kent stuck on 10, and it really is all to play for in the back end of the group stage.