Spitfires make it five from five
Spitfires make it five from five

A dazzling century stand between Alex Blake and Heino Kuhn paved the way for Kent Spitfires to beat Middlesex by 28 runs at Lord’s and achieve their best ever start to the Vitality Blast.

The Spitfires’ 100 per cent record in the South Group appeared to be in jeopardy after they slumped to 90-4, but Blake and Kuhn blazed an unbroken partnership of 114 from just eight overs to set up their side’s fifth straight victory.

Blake struck 66 not out from 29 balls, including five sixes and five fours, while Kuhn was more sedate by comparison, finishing on 54 from 31 as Kent posted 204-4.

That target proved to be beyond the home side, who – despite a fifth-wicket stand of 61 between Eoin Morgan and John Simpson – could only muster 176-7 in reply.

Middlesex skipper Dawid Malan won his fifth consecutive toss of the tournament and sent the visitors in, but Zak Crawley and Daniel Bell-Drummond got their side off to a solid start with a partnership of 44.

Crawley (30 from 15) launched a frenzied assault on Toby Roland-Jones, hitting two sixes and a four in the space of three deliveries but then punching Tom Helm into the hands of mid-off.

Steven Finn (2-40) put the brakes on Kent with two wickets in an over, having Ollie Robinson (7) caught at deep square leg before Bell-Drummond (25) holed out four balls later.

The Spitfires also lost Mohammad Nabi (7), who was bowled by Nathan Sowter – but that set the stage for Kuhn and Blake to pulverise Middlesex’s attack in the closing stages.

Kuhn reverse-swept the spinners to good effect as he passed a career total of 2,000 T20 runs, while Blake seemed content to play second fiddle until Finn’s final over – which cost 25 as the left-hander slammed four sixes from five balls.

The last three overs disappeared for 57 in all, with Blake heaving Helm for another six to bring up his 50 and following up with a ramp shot to raise the hundred partnership from 41 balls.

Hardus Viljoen (3-32) made early inroads when Middlesex replied with two wickets in three balls, bowling Malan (5) and having Stevie Eskinazi (4) caught behind after dispatching his first delivery to the boundary.

AB de Villiers stroked his first ball through the covers for four, but the South African star had only 10 to his name when he became Viljoen’s third victim, misjudging the pace and clipping tamely to mid-on.

Paul Stirling (27) chopped on to Nabi, but Morgan, making his first appearance since leading England to World Cup glory at Lord’s last month, and Simpson briefly kept Middlesex hopes alive.

However, Morgan (28) holed out in the deep and, when Simpson (37) perished to Fredrick Klaassen’s superb one-handed catch on the run soon afterwards, the outcome was beyond doubt, despite Roland-Jones’ gutsy unbeaten knock of 31.

STUART LAW (Middlesex coach)

“Blake played very well towards the end – he’s a powerful hitter but I think we gave him some opportunities to get away and probably bowled two bad overs, which cost us in the end.

“I don’t think we batted that badly – we needed one or two of our top five to take it a bit deeper and bat a bit longer. All of a sudden that 12 an over run rate comes down to nine or 10 and that’s when you feel like you’ve got the game under control.

“We’ve got areas where we didn’t quite execute today. Our boys weren’t quite on their game. We need to bounce back come Sunday, when we’ve got Somerset at Richmond and we’re looking forward to that.

“We’ve still got nine games to go and a lot can happen in that time. We’ve played some good cricket so far, we’ll continue to work hard and put plans in place that keep us in the hunt.”

ALEX BLAKE (Kent)

“We knew they were going to be a tough outfit to beat. When I came in I was pretty happy to play second fiddle to Heino – he’s been batting brilliantly. His first game, he came in and got a fifty, so he’s in good touch and I was happy to run hard and get him back on strike.

“Then when those last few overs came, with that short boundary on one side, the left and right-hand combination worked in our favour. Thankfully I got a few away as well and we both accelerated to get up to 200.

“I think our bowling attack’s looking really good. They’ve been brilliant in these first five games and I’m confident, if we post a score, we’ve got the guys to defend it.

“We seem to have found a bit of momentum. We’ve got another tough game tomorrow against Sussex, so we’ve got to keep doing the business and hopefully we can go six from six.”

THE TURNING POINT: Kent looked on course to register no more than a par score until Finn’s final over, when Blake unleashed four huge sixes to tilt the pendulum decisively in his side’s favour.

SHOT OF THE DAY: While Blake was responsible for the lion’s share of the maximums in the Spitfires’ innings, Crawley’s second six off Roland-Jones was the most eye-catching shot as he cleanly despatched the bowler back over his head.

UNSUNG HERO: Nabi’s tidy spell of 2-32 kept the pressure on Middlesex’s batsmen and the Afghanistan spinner also picked up the key wickets of Stirling and Morgan when both looked well set.

WHAT’S NEXT: Kent aim to extend their unbeaten start to the South Group when they travel to third-placed Sussex on Friday night, while Middlesex are at home again on Sunday, with Somerset the visitors to Richmond.


 
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