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

Kent continued their dismal defence of their Vitality Blast title on Tuesday when they lost by five runs to Gloucestershire in Canterbury.

After conceding 196 runs with the ball, the hosts trotted along with the bat for much of their innings and ultimately fell just short of Gloucestershire’s total, ensuring they remain bottom of the South Group.

After Miles Hammond reverse-swept the first ball of the game for four, he smashed the third straight up in the air, with Tawanda Muyeye taking the catch to give Jack Leaning the first wicket of the match.

Leaning continued to threaten, taking on more responsibility with the absence of spinning all-rounder George Linde, and Matt Quinn was economical early on before Chris Dent almost took the seamer’s head off with a lifted drive down the ground for four.

The two Gloucestershire batters ticked over without giving too much away to take their side to a respectable 49/1 at the end of the powerplay, and the 50 was up a ball later when Dent cut Qais Ahmad for a single.

Teenager Jas Singh unfortunately saw his first ever professional T20 over go for 26 as the visitors targeted the 19-year-old, but Dent was caught at long-on for 40 in the very next over following some good bowling from Qais.

The visitors reached 93/2 at the halfway stage, and the 100 was brought up in the 12th over as Gloucestershire eyed a big total.

Ian Cockbain brought up his 50 from 38 balls with a four down the ground off Qais, and delivered the same shot later in the over as Gloucestershire began to take the sword to Kent.

Milnes eventually had Cockbain caught for 64, but a neat lift from a slower ball bouncer over Kent wicketkeeper Sam Billings suggested that new man Jack Taylor had no intent of slowing down.

Matt Quinn became the latest seam injury for Kent when he left the field with one ball remaining of his over and the team’s 18th, but Joe Denly finished the over and bowled Taylor for 12.

Glenn Phillips brought up his 50 with a six off Matt Milnes – 30 balls, two fours and four sixes for the New Zealand star – and the visitors ended their innings on 195/4, with Kent requiring 196 to win at 9.8 an over.

Joe Denly hit the first boundary of the Kent innings off the third ball, and Tawanda Muyeye came flying out the blocks too, with the hosts dashing to 29/0 from three overs.

Muyeye was out the very next ball though, anticlimactically clipping Josh Shaw to Ryan Higgins at deep-square-leg for 11.

Kent were dead level with Gloucestershire at the end of their powerplay at 49/1, but Benny Howell and Tom Smith put a lid on things and Denly was gone for 31 from 30 balls just before the halfway mark, where Kent were 77/2.

Despite replays showing it should have been six, Jordan Cox was caught on the boundary as things began to really unravel for Kent, and despite Alex Blake and Billing’s best efforts, the rate was just too high.

Billings skied Amir to Taylor for 26, and, as Blake and Jack Leaning looked like they could have given Kent a sniff, Amir had Blake caught on the boundary.

A horrific end to Amir’s over left the Spitfires needing 19 from the final over to win, and Jack Leaning took it oh so close, with him needing to hit a six from the final ball for Kent to tie.

The 28-year-old could only manage a single, and Gloucestershire were the winners by five runs – a fantastic ending to the game, but again not enough for the Spitfires.

Gloucestershire’s Ian Cockbain said: “We thought that we had an above par score, the dew came in once the light took effect and that made the wicket a lot better which helped Kent a little bit, but we still thought we probably had a bit too many.  Mo’s obviously an international bowler, he was unbelievable today and then Higgo does what he does at the death. He’s probably one of the best in the country at bowling those yorkers so it was nice to call on those guys when we needed to. 

“It’s been a tough campaign for me so far, I haven’t really fired at any point. I had a bit of a break before this game so it was nice to get in the nets, work on a few things and come out here today and get a few in the middle. Chris gave me a bit of time to get myself in because he was striking the ball lovely, so it was obviously worked well for the both of us and then Glenn gave himself a chance and cashed in at the back end.” 

(At the end) “I was on the sideline fielding and I’m not a great watcher, so I was definitely more nervous watching, than I probably would have been if I was out there on the field!”

Kent’s Alex Blake said: “It’s not been the greatest campaign so for us it was a case of expressing ourselves I think, that’s what we spoke about. We had quite a big chat after the Lord’s game and we just said let’s go out there and not hold anything back. That’s what we did with the bat and we got pretty close, but unfortunately couldn’t get over the line, but that was a bit more like the old Kent of last year and we’ll be taking that into the last three games. 

“I thought they bowled pretty well at the end there, I found it pretty tough to get Amir away, which is why he’s a world-class bowler I guess. 

“We know what Jack can do, he did it all last season and me and Sam (Billings), we actually said in the changing room, let’s make it like the old days, let’s go out there and win games again for Kent. We thought we were going to do it and obviously we both got out, but Sam freed himself up, played beautifully and got the momentum going and myself and Jack chipped in as well. We know we’ve got the firepower but we can’t seem to get it all going at the moment.”