Walker not taking Essex lightly
Walker not taking Essex lightly

Kent Spitfires head coach Matt Walker has admitted his side must not take a rejuvenated Essex side lightly as they push for T20 Blast Quarter Final qualification on Friday.

Kent, on 10 points from eight games, need just two more points from their final two matches of the group stage to progress in the competition, but will have to have to overcome at least one of Essex and already qualified Surrey, weather permitting, to do so.

Essex are almost certainly out now – they will have to win their final two games and also hope other results go their way to qualify – but they are in good form, winning their last two matches, and will be aiming to do all they can to prevent their rivals from over the bridge qualifying.

Ahead of the game, Walker said: “Essex are a dangerous side, we know that. Every side can beat each other – you have to be at your best all the time or you will lose games of cricket.

“We were not at our best [on Wednesday against Middlesex] and we lost, and that is what happens. We know we cannot take our foot off the gas and have a bad two or three overs.

“Essex have some very good players and we know we will have to be at our very best. We were good against them at the Oval, but we have got to be good on Friday.”

After taking three wins, a tie and a no result from their opening five fixtures of the tournament, Kent have won one and lost two of their last three, including against Middlesex on Wednesday, leaving them with work to do to qualify from the south group.

The situation is similar to last year, where the team won six of their first seven games before failing to win any of their last seven, eventually losing a one game shootout to Friday’s opponents, who went onto win the competition.

“You never feel like you are there” said Walker. “You always have to be pushing onto the next game – it would have made life easier if we got over the line on Wednesday, but we did not, and we find ourselves in a similar position to where we were last year.

“It would be nice to win on Friday and give ourselves a bit of breathing space. We have shown some really good qualities over the competition and we back ourselves to beat anybody when we play the brand of cricket we can play.”

Kent will welcome back captain Sam Billings for the game, fresh from scoring a 50 and his maiden international century during England’s recent ODI series against Australia.

His return will give the leadership team a selection headache, but Walker insisted said headache will be welcomed.

“Sam is back for the next two games which is a great addition” said Walker. “It is going to cause some selection issues, but we knew it was going to happen at some stage and it is a good thing to have the captain back.

“Deebz [Daniel Bell-Drummond, stand in captain] has done an outstanding job. We have seen a young man grow in that role over the course of the competition, over the course of the season really – he has captained brilliantly whilst being in brilliant form at the top of the order.

“He has done a brilliant job got us into a really good position, but Bilbo comes back in really good form too, so that will really strengthen our lineup.

“Whatever side we put out, I think it will be a really strong one.”

Kent’s game against Essex will begin at 14:00 BST on Friday.