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'It's absolutely brutal' - Kent captain Sam Billings gives honest reaction to T20 defeat to Essex

Sam Billings pauses for a few seconds in thought, the defeated and visibly-hurt Kent captain still processing things as he is asked to reflect on his side's crushing T20 elimination at Chelmsford.

A quarter-final berth was in the Spitfires' own hands, only for a tail-end collapse at Essex to leave their five-game winning streak at the beginning of the competition unrewarded.

While their rivals from across the bridge rejoiced over a place in the final eight, Kent's players prepared for the damning conversations that lie ahead.

Kent skipper Sam Billings. Picture: Ady Kerry
Kent skipper Sam Billings. Picture: Ady Kerry

The side that had cruised to the top of the South group in July had adopted a new look as the competition progressed, with the departure of Afghanistan all-rounder Mohammad Nabi and injury to New Zealander Adam Milne playing a significant role in their costly dip.

Reflecting on Kent's failure to qualify, Billings pointed to team changes as a contributing factor.

He said: "It's hugely disappointing, on a couple of things.

"The side has changed dramatically, not that it's an excuse, but the balance of the side with (Mohammad) Nabi and (Adam) Milne, obviously two huge misses, we were probably a batter short and a bowler short really.

"Obviously not being rude to any of the guys but the balance of the side has changed drastically which has had a role in the results.

"Me not being able to keep is another one, it opens up another slot I suppose, a bowling option that I would have probably liked to have in the last few games.

"Just a few things like that really."

Kent squandered a golden opportunity to strengthen their grip on a qualification spot earlier this month, losing by one run to Surrey at Canterbury having needed 24 off the final three overs with nine wickets still intact.

They endured a similarly frustrating evening at home to Gloucestershire, going down by five runs after leaving themselves with 12 to win off the last seven balls.

Dropped catches and a poor second half to their innings at Essex equated to another disappointing evening, rightly denying Kent a place in the knockout stages in the eyes of Billings.

"We haven't deserved to go through if I'm honest," he admitted.

"The back end of the tournament, regardless of those changes in the side, we haven't played anywhere near to our ability and haven't had the real nerve at those key moments.

"You probably expect it to happen once or twice, but three times in a row is really tough to take to be honest.

"It's hugely draining and frustrating as you can probably imagine.

"Our fielding has been diabolical throughout the competition, the amount of dropped catches, the amount of mis-fields.

"We probably gave them 15/20 runs tonight.

"Of course nobody means to do it but when it's a collective thing, there has to be a common denominator if the same mistakes keep happening."

Despite Faf du Plessis' efforts to rally his new teammates at the start of the evening, Kent ultimately couldn't rediscover the rhythm or impetus that had shaped them into strong favourites earlier in the summer.

Billings added: "Faf (du Plessis) spoke brilliantly before the game, saying that if you have that mindset that we lost a couple of close games then it's up to you to be even more confident with it, be aggressive with it and force it out of yourself to give you that extra bit of energy, which we probably didn't do.

"It's infectious, if you're flat then the next bloke in your team is also flat and very quickly a couple of heads go down.

"You see it in T20 more than any game. It's absolutely brutal.

"Momentum is a huge thing but we just haven't been good enough in all aspects of the game.

"A couple of decisions that I've probably made have backfired, but such is life. I think we just haven't been good enough, simple as that."

Kent are set to return to County Championship action against Nottinghamshire from Tuesday September 10.

Read more: All the latest Kent sport news

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