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REPORT: Sharks edged out by Spitfires at Hove

11-Jul-2014

Kent withstood a remarkable late burst of hitting from Chris Jordan, Ben Brown and Will Beer to pip Sussex Sharks by three runs in a NatWest T20 Blast southern group thriller at The BrightonandHoveJobs.com County Ground, Hove.

Alex Blake’s exhilarating 53 not out from 32 balls, including five sixes, had lifted Kent to 149 for nine – far more than looked likely for most of their innings – and then the game looked up for Sussex as they collapsed to 43 for five after 10 overs.

But Brown, with 33 off 22 balls, Jordan, with a 26-ball 37, and Beer – whose 25 took just 12 balls – almost snatched it at the death. Sussex had needed 47 from their last three overs, 32 from the last two, and 18 from the final over, but the lower order trio smashed seven sixes between them, three by Beer, to leave Kent hugely relieved.

Jordan, who drove Mitch Claydon for six from the fourth ball of the 20th over, holed out to long off when eight runs were required off the last two balls. The catch, by Ben Harmison, finally sealed a win for Kent that keeps up their hopes of quarter-final qualification from the South Division. Defeat, for Sussex, makes it almost impossible for them to qualify.

Harmison had earlier produced a double-wicket maiden with his opening over, the third of Sussex’s reply, to shock the home side in front of a near-capacity 6,000 crowd.

Chris Nash swung Harmison to deep square leg and then Luke Wells skied to mid on. When James Tredwell bowled Luke Wright for 17 through an attempted cut, it left Sussex 32 for three.

Worse was to follow as Fabian Cowdrey, called up to bowl his left-arm spin, turned one through debutant Craig Cachopa’s defences when he had made 11 and then saw Matt Machan, on 4, drive him straight to Blake at long on.

Two sixes by Brown off Cowdrey began Sussex’s desperate counter-attack but the excellent Tredwell, who conceded just 12 runs from his four overs, returned to have Yasir Arafat caught and bowled in the 17th over, soon after Brown had pulled Adam Ball to Cowdrey on the short mid wicket boundary.

At 103 for seven, after 17 overs, it looked all over for Sussex but Jordan and Beer had other ideas. Two sixes by Beer off Claydon, in the 18th over, kept up the late charge and when he was bowled by Harmison in the penultimate over it was left to Jordan to take his team agonizingly close.

Kent’s innings had begun well, with Daniel Bell-Drummond taking a legside four and a pulled six off Lewis Hatchett’s opening over and both he and Rob Key hitting Jordan for boundaries in the second over.

But Key’s dismissal, caught at point for 11 from the fourth ball of the third over, from Hatchett, seemed to take the wind from Kent’s sails after the rapid start which had brought 27 off the first 15 balls of the innings.

Sam Northeast, who made only 5 amid several wild slogs, was unlucky to touch to the keeper Arafat’s first ball, fired a foot outside his leg stump, and Kent were 51 for three when Cowdrey was leg-before for 3 to Beer’s googly.

The slump continued when Darren Stevens was trapped in front on 1 by a fine nip-backer from Steffan Piolet and Bell-Drummond, who had played sensibly up to that point for a 33-ball 34, let himself down by having a swing at Beer and skying a catch to cover.

Blake hit his first six in the 13th over, a massive blow over extra over off Beer, but then lost Sam Billings for 3, caught at deep mid wicket as he too tried to clear the ropes against the leg-spinner.

From 77 for six the Kent innings was boosted by Blake’s big hitting, following the left-hander’s brilliant ramp shot for four against Arafat.

Jordan was plundered for 24 in the 17th over, a bouncer flying for five wides before Blake pulled and slashed him for sixes, the second a free hit after a no ball had further extended the over.

Two more pulled sixes by Blake to the shorter boundary, both off Arafat, not only took him to a superb 50 but also gave Kent something to defend.

“It was hard work out there as captain,” said Key. “Injuries mean we had a few inexperienced bowlers out there and I knew we had to take early wickets if we were to have a chance of defending a score I thought was twenty runs short of par with such short boundaries. But without Alex Blake’s fantastic innings we wouldn’t have had any prayer.”

Sussex captain Nash said: “All credit to our guys down the order for getting us so close. Blake played brilliantly but we thought 150 was chaseable. In the end the last four overs of their innings cost us.”

WATCH: Will Beer spoke to BBC Sussex after tonight's match and you can hear his thoughts by following the link to the Sussex TV YouTube Channel above

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