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Kent target home quarter-final after securing qualification in T20 Blast

Sam Billings was relieved that Kent held their nerve to beat Somerset and clinch a place in the Vitality Blast quarter-finals.

Spitfires won by five runs at Canterbury on Thursday with Somerset taking the match to the wire in attempting to chase down the home side’s total of 231.

Billings top scored with 57 not out while Alex Blake hit 42 from 22 balls and Sean Dickson played an important cameo at the end of the innings hitting 20 from nine deliveries.

Somerset were penalised for a slow over rate handing Kent six runs, which proved decisive in the end.

Sam Billings. Picture: Chris Davey. (3653097)
Sam Billings. Picture: Chris Davey. (3653097)

Billings said: “It was a very good result against a top team. We held our nerve at the end and I’m a lot more relaxed that we are qualified and through.

“It just shows you are never out of a T20 game especially with a short boundary one side.

“I didn’t really get into my flow in the innings if I’m honest. I got a couple away at the end but never quite got into fifth or sixth gear. Alex Blake was firing along and it was a matter of giving him the strike.

“Sometimes it doesn’t matter how good a player you are, you might not be on that day and someone else might be. You just have to stay with them, rotate the strike and minimise the dot balls.

“Sean Dickson’s was key in getting us to that 230 score.

“I know Surrey got 250 here but I think that proves that that score was more like 215 or 220 on a normal pitch with normal boundaries. I think tonight’s 230 was more like 200 or 205 on a normal ground.”

Somerset took the match right down to the last over and fell just short. With 12 balls left they needed 41 runs but managed to get that down to 10 from the last two balls.

Their skipper, Lewis Gregory, played a key innings at the end hitting 44 from just 15 balls.

Billings said: “I said in the huddle before we went out to field that this game isn’t over. It’s not out of reach for them. They have a lot of power down the order and we know how destructive their top order can be.

“Mitch Claydon has shown when he’s come back from injury what an important part he is to this bowling attack. It’s great to see him close out the game. It’s a really good result against a good team.

“I still think we can be better in the field and be a bit more switched on with managing our space but I put that down to a little inexperience.”

Kent face Essex in their 14th and final match of the Vitality Blast group stages knowing they have already qualified for the quarter-finals.

If Spitfires beat Essex it would guarantee them a home tie in the last eight.

Mitch Claydon. Picture: Keith Gillard
Mitch Claydon. Picture: Keith Gillard

Billings said: “It’s a big game and we want to have a home quarter-final. The last thing we want after a long four day game up a Leicester is to be carting somewhere else around the country.

“It’s a tough place to go but they have been struggling for a bit of form. We will put them under pressure. In T20 you can’t take your foot off the gas.

“We will go into the quarter-final with a lot of confidence.

“It would be great for the club both on and off the field. Around the ground you saw the crowd tonight and it was a great atmosphere. Our support down here is fantastic so it would be great to have a home quarter-final.”

Australian all-rounder Marcus Stoinis is unlikely to feature in Kent’s final group stage match with Essex on Friday.

Stoinis has been struggling with a hamstring injury and has missed the last few games.

Billings said: “He’s touch and go. I don’t know how much he will have improved in a day. If I’m honest, it doesn’t seem sensible to risk him for tomorrow now we have a quarter-final.

“We could give him another week to rest up for that match. He is a very important player for our side and we would much rather him be fit for that. If we’d lost tonight we may be having a different conversation about it.”

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