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Kent Spitfires suffer six-wicket defeat to Essex Eagles in NatWest T20 Blast South Group with Ravi Bopara unbeaten on 81

By Alex Hoad

Kent Spitfires were made to pay for dropped catches as they suffered a six-wicket defeat at the hands of Essex in NatWest T20 Blast on Wednesday evening.

Despite making a record-setting start and posting 189-5, then restricting the visitors to 61-3 in reply, Kent allowed Ravi Bopara and Ryan ten Doeschate three lives between them and they made them pay ruthlessly with a century stand which paved the way for the biggest ever successful T20 run-chase at Canterbury.

Key and Daniel Bell-Drummond made a blistering start after winning the toss and opting to bat first, putting on 55 from the first five overs, though Key survived being caught twice in the same over from Tymal Mills, the first from a free-hit from a no-ball and the second from a no-ball itself.

At the midway point the hosts were 97-0, passing the previous highest opening partnership in a T20, set by Key and Joe Denly against Nottinghamshire in 2007.

In-form Key brought up his 50 from 34 balls with a delicious straight drive for a one bounce four off Jesse Ryder.

The partnership was eventually broken with the score on 119 from the first ball of the 13th over from Mills, Bell-Drummond slashing at one and nicking behind to James Foster for a fine 48 from 38 balls, which featured four fours and a thumping six.

Key followed his partner back to the dugout just four balls later, swinging at a slower ball and missing, with his stumps demolished by Mills as a result.

On 124-2 from 13 overs Alex Blake joined Darren Stevens in the middle, only for Stevens to depart eight balls later for six, bowled by David Masters.

Blake didn’t linger much longer, clipping one from Ryan ten Doeschate into the night, with the bowler sprinting and diving to dismiss the in-form batsman for six.

There was a late flurry of runs to push Kent up to their total of 189-5 with Sam Billings making 26 before chopping onto his own stumps off Mills.

Sam Northeast made a fine cameo, hitting back-to-back sixes off Reece Topley in a 10-ball 21 not out while the final two balls of the innings were despatched to the rope by Adam Ball (8 not out).

Rob Key. Picture: Barry Goodwin
Rob Key. Picture: Barry Goodwin

The reply got off to the perfect start from a Spitfires perspective when Stevens bowled Mark Pettini with just the third ball in what became a wicket-maiden to open the innings.

Jesse Ryder soon settled and cracked 32 from 14 balls with six fours and a six but was superbly run-out by Adam Riley at mid-off as Ryder was caught out of his crease after a drive from Tom Westley.

The pair had put on 55 in five overs but Westley followed Ryder back to the hutch just five balls later, superbly stumped while off balance from a legside Stevens delivery by Billings for 27.

New man ten Doeschate offered a half-chance to a diving Bollinger at long-on, only for the big Aussie to spill the catch off Stevens, with the Dutch international making him pay with an almighty six over cow corner from the very next ball.

Tredwell also put down a sharper chance off his own bowling, with ten Doeschate clubbing the next ball for four.

Daniel Bell-Drummond was the other member of the drop club as Bopara swung a big shot out to the rope off Stevens, only for Bell-Drummond to misread and dive forward too late, spurning the opportunity.

By the time ten Doeschate did fall for 47 from 29 balls, Riley holding a catch off David Griffiths, the scoreboard showed 165 and there were still more than three overs remaining.

Bopara cruised his way to an unbeaten 81 from 50 balls, featuring eight fours and three sixes, to guide his side home with an over to spare and see Kent drop to fourth in the table, with Essex going second.

Kent visit third-placed Glamorgan in their next group game on Friday.

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