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

Joe Denly joined James Vince and Luke Wright in passing 5,000 Vitality Blast runs after a breathtaking 32-ball 76 gave Kent Spitfires their fifth straight victory.

Denly thrashed his 39th T20 fifty and overtook Wright to move just behind Vince in the all-time run-scoring list – he is now up 5,050 runs in the competition.

His tubthumping innings, paired with in-form Daniel Bell-Drummond’s fifth fifty of the tournament in a 110 stand, underpinned the Spitfires chasing 184 with nine balls to spare.

Essex were on the receiving end of a thrashing for the second time in a week to loosen their hopes of progressing from the group, despite Dan Lawrence’s 52.

Tawanda Muyeye fell to a top-edged behind in the third over but that only brought Denly to the crease.

Two dots, a single and an edgy guide to the third boundary underestimated the carnage that was about to unfold, which started with two pulled sixes.

A pair of checked cover drives could have added points for aesthetic pleasure, while the force he used to bring up his 18-ball fifty would have knocked out a herd of oxen.

He took his tally to six sixes and six fours before tamely picking out cover for 76.

Amongst Denly’s onslaught, Bell-Drummond was classily ticking through his repertoire in a 35 ball fifty. He now has 476 runs in 11 innings.

Sam Billings was caught at long off, but Bell-Drummond rose to 69 not out and a 12-ball 20 cameo from Jordan Cox got them over the line.

Earlier, Essex were asked to bat and for the fourth time in five games, lost three wickets in the powerplay.

Feroze Khushi skied to mid on where Wes Agar brilliantly caught – after bowler George Linde had visibly prayed – with Michael Pepper and Robin Das leaving the hosts 55 for three after the first six overs.

Paul Walter came, was dropped and was pinned by Jack Leaning, who was celebrating his 50th Kent T20 appearance.

Lawrence was often scratchy but amassed eight fours and a wonderfully-timed six over mid-on in his 33-ball fifty.

He and Matt Critchley had rebuilt with a 57-run stand but both fell within three balls of each other, with Daniel Sams only facing six balls before edging behind.

Just as Essex looked like recording a very poor score, Simon Harmer and Will Buttleman slapped 40 together in 16 balls, with Grant Stewart taking the brunt in a 28-run over.

But that momentum fizzled out with three wickets falling in the final over.

Kent Spitfires batter Joe Denly said this after the game:

“We weren’t really sure at halfway if that was a good score or not. With the ball we never let them get away from us too much and then with the bat it was a convincing chase.

“DBD showed his form again and having someone like that at the top batting like that makes it easy for us.

“The belief in backing our skills, keeping our intent and not backing down [has been the secret of five wins from five]. You can get on a losing streak in T20 cricket but when things start clicking it is a nice game to play.

“We would love to qualify but what has kept us in good stead has been not getting carried away when we have been winning or losing.

“I’m feeling pretty good. It is always easy when the ball is coming out the middle and you feel in good touch. The key is to keep it going.

“I was not aware of [reaching 5,000 Blast runs] but it is always nice to score lots of runs in any competition. It is nice to be amongst those names at the top. Vince is a fine player and probably has a couple of years more than me so I’ll have to keep scoring heavily for a while.”

Meanwhile, Essex head coach Anthony McGrath had this to say:

“We thought 184 was a good score at half way. We have used this pitch three times and it was gripping early on. But we were disappointed to lose early wickets at key times and we’ve been bowled out again.

“We didn’t bowl well enough. There was enough in that wicket and we were too full. We needed wickets in the powerplay but we’ve been bad with the ball in the last two games.

“Denly batted well and Bell-Drummond, we aren’t taking anything away from Kent, but we didn’t quite get it right.

“We haven’t been at the standard we were when we won five games on the trot. It can happen in this competition but what we have to do is exactly what we did on the run of five; not get too high and now not get too down.

“We’ve shown that even though we have lost wickets in clumps we have almost got 200 so that is a good sign. We’ve just gone away from our plans with the ball and we’re shown that when we get that right we’re a good bowling unit.

“There isn’t too much to get down about. There are still three games left and we are still in a good position.

“It is sad Dan is leaving but we all understand his decision. He is fully commited to the end of the season and we all know he wants to end his Essex career on a high. It is no surprise he is doing the business.”