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Kent Spitfires lose by six wickets to Gloucestershire in NatWest T20 Blast

By Alex Hoad

A below-par Spitfires batting performance allowed Gloucestershire to seal a six-wicket win in the final over of their NatWest T20 Blast clash at Cheltenham on Thursday afternoon.

After being asked to bat first, Joe Denly (39) top-scored in a opening stand of 45 off 31 balls with Daniel Bell-Drummond (16) but the hosts struck regularly to stunt the Spitfires scoring at The College Ground and dent their chances of following-up Sunday's comprehensive win in their opening South Group game against Essex.

Denley (39) followed Bell-Drummond back to the pavilion 11 runs later, when he was well caught by Tom Smith on the deep square leg boundary.

Joe Denly. Picture Andy Jones.

Joe Denly. Picture: Andy Jones.

From 56-2, Kent slipped unceremoniously to 87-5 in the 12th over with Sam Northeast (5) holing out to Smith, again on the deep square leg boundary, and Jimmy Neesham (9) edging Chris Liddle to wicket keeper Mustard.

Alex Blake (2) handed Smith a third catch and at that juncture, Kent appeared to be limping towards a rather modest total.

Billings and sixth wicket partner Darren Stevens had different ideas and although Gloucestershire continued to bowl and field well, the visitors progressed at 10 an over until Matt Taylor took a fine catch at backward square off the bowling of Benny Howell, to send back Billings for 36 from 25 balls.

Howell, who had already taken the wickets of Northeast and Denly, added his fourth scalp before the end of the 17th over when Matt Coles holed out to Jack Taylor at long on for a first ball duck to leave Kent 128-7.

Adam Milne hit 17 not out, including a final over six, as the visitors were restricted to 152-8.

In reply, James Tredwell struck to bowl Michael Klinger in the sixth with the score on 35 over to keep Kent in the hunt but Klinger's opening partner Phil Mustard (42) and Ian Cockbain (31) struck 41 in a four-over blitz which put the hosts ahead of the required run rate.

Mustard became Blast debutant Imran Qayyum’s first victim in professional T20 cricket, with Northeast taking a good catch at midwicket.

Australian batsman Cameron Bancroft (34 not out) and Benny Howell (22) steadied the ship but New Zealand paceman Adam Milne removed Cockbain (31), with Coles taking a superb one-handed catch and Howell before Jack Taylor hit a boundary off his first ball to seal victory with five balls to spare.

Qayyum - who replaced Adam Ball in the lineup - had mixed emotions after his memorable day.

He said: "I suppose it's a case of mixed feelings for me. It was great to get my debut after being on the staff for four years, but I am disappointed that we lost.

"I suppose we were always playing second fiddle to Gloucestershire, but with four or five overs left, we were still in with a chance.

"Fair play to Gloucestershire, they got it right on the day and all credit to them.

"We just need to bounce back straight away if we can."

The two sides meet again on Tuesday (18 July) at The Spitfire Ground at 7pm but first Kent head to the Oval to take-on Surrey on Friday night (6.30pm).

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