Spitfires win to top the group
Spitfires win to top the group

Daniel Bell-Drummond continued his awesome Vitality Blast campaign with an impeccable 81 as Kent Spitfires thrashed Essex Eagles at the Kia Oval to hold onto top spot in the South Group.

Spitfires skipper Bell-Drummond is now the second top scorer in the competition, with 228 runs and a fiery strike-rate of 181.

His hitting, along with Alex Blake’s unbeaten half-century, saw Kent to an imperious 193 for six.

And that was enough as Imran Qayyum’s splendid three for 25 saw the Spitfires triumph by 29 runs and continued their unbeaten first half to the tournament.

Bell-Drummond led the innings exceptionally, firstly with Zak Crawley and then Blake, having won the toss and elected to set a total on a warn wicket, with huge boundaries.

The Spitfires skipper has enjoyed an exceptional start to the Blast, putting on at least 49 for the opening wicket with Crawley in all four previous fixtures.

They continued the trend with 83 between them as they attacked the powerplay – scoring 81 off the first six overs, with Bell-Drummond striking eight boundaries off Shane Snater and Matt Quinn.

Bell-Drummond found the mid-wicket region most profitable, with 48 of his runs coming in that quarter of the ground, although cut nicely as his alternative boundary option.

He lost Crawley and Heino Kuhn in quick succession, the former caught off Harmer to a stunning diving catch from Snater and the latter castled, before Blake helped jump the score.

It only took three balls for Blake to pump Aron Nijjar for six over long-on, to start a profitable middle-overs spell for the designated away side.

Blake’s big blows were mimicked by Bell-Drummond, who pulled powerfully to the boundary to reach his 22nd format fifty in 26 balls, before thrashing over mid-wicket for a maximum of his own.

The 64-run stand ended when Bell-Drummond was lbw swinging across the line to Harmer – who was the only Essex bowler to return figures, two for 21, worth boasting about.

Blake continued in Bell-Drummond’s absence, eventually scoring four sixes and two fours, on his way to a 31-ball half-century.

But Kent’s quest to reach 200 fell short though as Jack Leaning, Grant Stewart and Jordan Cox all fell cheaply late on, as Blake ended on an unbeaten 52.

Essex motored out the blocks through the free-swinging Cameron Delport in their chase but regular wickets thwarted their hopes of victory.

The South African reached a quick-fire 28, which included huge sixes over mid-wicket and straight, but fell when he attempted to reverse lap a slower ball from Tim Groenewald.

After his first-innings runs, Bell-Drummond kept himself in the game with a catch at point to dismiss Tom Westley, before Dan Lawrence holed out to long-off – both off Qayyum.

Varun Chopra had held the innings together with 41 off 33, but having been dropped on 39 he was stumped off, again off the left-arm spinner.

Paul Walter was run out, Ryan ten Doeschate – after an enterprising 42 – was caught at cow corner and Simon Harmer was bowled.

Snater and Adam Wheater flailed 20 runs together but fell 29 runs short as they ended on 163 for seven.

Essex Eagles captain Simon Harmer was disappointed with the result:

“We lacked desperation in the field and with our batting.

“We are not where we need to be in terms of putting in a proper campaign and trying to defend our title.

“We’ve been pretty poor so far and with only a few games left it has made it difficult to push for a play-off place.

“If you look at how Kent bowled they obviously learned from what we did wrong in the powerplay. We could have been more savvy with slower balls, taking pace off and hitting back of a length.

“Whenever our backs are against the wall it gets the best out of the players and that is where we are again.

“It isn’t a great situation to be in but with five games to go there is still an opportunity if games go our way.”

Meanwhile, Kent Spitfires captain and batsman Daniel Bell-Drummond was pleased with another great victory:

“It was an awesome both personally and from the team. I was really proud of the guys; we started brilliantly and kept that going through the 40 overs.

“I think the way the game is going you have to keep up with it and I have made a big effort to do that and I have been backed by the management and support start to bat that way.

“I enjoy doing it and I want to continue with it.

“It is great batting with Zak. He has had a brilliant summer but it is great to have him back amongst the guys and it is rubbing off on everyone.

“I am confident in the guys that everyone is hitting their straps well. We just need to stay confident and keep sticking to our plans [to make sure we get through].”