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Kent Spitfires lose by eight runs to Gloucestershire in NatWest T20 Blast South Group

Kent suffered an immensely frustrating defeat to Gloucestershire at Canterbury in NatWest T20 Blast South Group on Tuesday night.

The Spitfires looked strong favourites at the midway stage after some inspired bowling from Imran Qayyum, who claimed 2-19 on just his second T20 start, and slick fielding helped restrict the visitors to a modest 138-9.

However despite a breezy start to the reply, Kent lost momentum and wickets fell at regular intervals as they were eventually held to a total of 130 and saw their South Group record drop to two wins and two losses, while their conquerors took over at the top of the table after a second win against the Spitfires in five days.

Sam Northeast congratulates Imran Qayyum. Picture: Andy Jones.
Sam Northeast congratulates Imran Qayyum. Picture: Andy Jones.

After Kent won the toss and elected to chase, Kiwi Jimmy Neesham struck with just his third ball as he tempted Phil Mustard into skying one into the muggy evening with Daniel Bell-Drummond scrambling backwards and taking a diving catch over his own shoulder at almost full stretch near mid-wicket to make it 18-1.

Australian Michael Klinger looked his usual dangerous self as he glanced three fours and clipped an almighty six of Neesham but he holed-out to Stevens at mid-off from Mitch Claydon's first ball to depart for 25 and leave his side on 33-2 at the start of the sixth over.

Ian Cockbain found the ropes regularly to steer his side to 63-2 at the midway stage but George Hankins (14) took a wild slog at Qayyum - in for the unavailable Adam Milne - and was smartly stumped by Billings to leave the visitors on 79-3 at the start of the 13th over.

His replacement Jack Taylor survived another stumping appeal thanks to the third umpire but in the same over Qayyum tempted Cockbain to drive straight at Northeast at cover to depart for 40 from 32 balls with his side on 96-4.

Qayyum finished with 2-19 from his four overs in just his second Kent T20 game, both against the same opponents.

Taylor launched Neesham for an almighty six and followed up with a four next ball, however he was deceived by Claydon's slower ball to start the 18th over and looped a dolly straight to Matt Coles to make it 116-5 with 17 balls remaining.

Alex Blake's catch soon after was far harder but he hared in from the long-off rope to take a tumbling effort to oust Thisara Perera (1) off Neesham (2-30) in the penultimate over.

The slickness of Kent's fielding shone through in the final over from Claydon (2-24), as first Tom Smith (1) and then Matt Taylor (0) were run-out taking on the cannon arm of Blake.

Benny Howell amassed 26 from 16 balls but was run-out off the final ball by Joe Denly in the deep as the visitors closed on 138-9.

Mitch Claydon celebrates his first-ball wicket. Picture: Andy Jones.
Mitch Claydon celebrates his first-ball wicket. Picture: Andy Jones.

The reply began inauspiciously with a fierce David Payne maiden over, however Denly struck the first ball he faced off Matt Taylor's first over for six.

Bell-Drummond cracked four straight fours off Perera but was trapped LBW by the Sri Lankan for 25 from 18 balls to end the fourth over, with Kent on 33-1.

Denly clubbed Smith for six but the Gloucestershire man got his revenge in the next over as Denly strode forward only to send him down the throat of Cockbain at long-off to head back to the pavilion for 18 from 17 balls.

Sam Billings and Sam Northeast came together with the score on 51-2 after seven overs and Billings soon lashed Chris Liddle into the Colin Cowdrey Stand, but Northeast departed for 10 after mistiming Howell to Klinger to make the score 68-3 at the midway point.

Klinger was also on hand when Neesham (1) skied Smith and then took a diving catch to dismiss Billings (15) from the very next ball, despite a lengthy third umpire review to decide if the ball had carried which eventually drew boos from the home crowd.

Kent were 71-5 after 11 overs and looking in trouble but Blake and Stevens steadied the ship with 19 runs from three overs, with Stevens ending a 28-ball wait for a Kent boundary with a lovely swept four.

With six overs left Kent were 90-5 and still hopeful of victory and after seeing-off Smith's hat-trick ball, Blake smashed him for six to leave Smith with still impressive figures of 3-28 from four overs.

38 were needed from the final 30 balls but Stevens got a leading edge and popped Howell (2-12 off four) straight back to the bowler and was caught for 15 to leave his side six down.

Matt Coles (1) skied Payne to a dashing Taylor to leave Kent needing 30 from the final three overs with three wickets in hand and their hopes were all but over when Blake (19) slashed Perera to Taylor two balls later.

Claydon and James Tredwell needed 19 off the final over but were unable to achieve a miraculous win as Tredwell was bowled by Perera for seven before Kent closed on 130 all-out after Qayyum (6) was run out from the final ball.

Kent return to action against Middlesex at Richmond on Thursday (5.30pm).

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