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Kent Spitfires (156-7) lost to Essex (157-5) by five wickets in Vitality Blast at Canterbury

Kent Spitfires fell to their fifth successive Vitality Blast defeat in front of a bumper crowd at Canterbury on Friday night.

It was a spirited display for Kent but they failed to build on a promising start with the bat and Essex then ruthlessly punished any shortcomings in their line or length to win by five wickets.

Zak Crawley - made 20 for Kent Spitfires against Essex on Friday night. Picture: Barry Goodwin
Zak Crawley - made 20 for Kent Spitfires against Essex on Friday night. Picture: Barry Goodwin

Invited to bat first, Kent’s Zak Crawley was looking to put his poor run of form behind him. He started tentatively and was dealing in only singles early on before a couple of powerful strikes to the boundary got him up and running.

He lost partner Daniel Bell-Drummond in the fourth over, caught at third man by Michael Pepper off Ben Allison for 10. Crawley had advanced to 20 when he was judged caught on the leg-side boundary by Allison, who had to flick the ball in the air as he trod back onto the boundary rope to avoid giving away six runs instead.

Tawanda Muyeye (18) hit a couple of excellent shots to the boundary but he was bowled by Simon Harmer having hit the spinner straight down the ground for six from his previous delivery, leaving Spitfires 60-3 in the eighth over.

Skipper Sam Billings, who said he took his time earlier in the campaign when hitting a blistering century, quickly got into his groove. A towering leg-side six off Matt Critchley was followed by a reverse sweep for four off Harmer in the next over and the hosts had progressed to 86-3 by the midway point of their innings.

Billings looked in sparkling form, a pull for four bringing up the Kent hundred in the 12th over, but Joey Evison went for seven as he slapped Paul Walter to mid-off.

Having raced to 38 off 20 balls, Billings skied a sweep to Luc Benkenstein at short fine leg off Critchley (2-28) to leave Spitfires 104-5 in the 13th over.

Marcus O’Riordan showed his qualities with boundaries off Harmer (2-32), one fine and the next straight down the ground before he was unfortunately bowled by the spinner for 20 off 12 balls, Spitfires were 131-6 with four overs remaining.

Beyers Swanepoel was bowled by Allison (2-33) for two at the start of the 18th over and it was left to Harry FInch (24 not out) to steer Spitfires to 156-7. The last five overs yielded 35 runs for the loss of two wickets.

Essex’s reply was only eight balls old when play was halted for less than two minutes as the sun was in the batsmen’s eyes, the players not even reaching the pavilion by the time they were called back by the umpires.

Spitfires quickly made their first breakthrough when Adam Rossington slapped Bartlett to Nathan Gilchrist at mid-off for four in the second over.

There was a second delay due to the setting sun 10 minutes later, this time a five-minute stoppage to play only three overs into the Essex innings.

Gilchrist conceded a six and a four in his first over but had the last laugh when Dean Elgar skied him to O’Riordan for seven, Essex 28-2 after four overs.

Jordan Cox hit three successive boundaries off Bartlett, the second a fortunate nick through the vacant slip area, as Essex eased to 57-2 by the end of the powerplay.

Cox sent two balls out of the ground with successive sixes off Gilchrist as he reached 26 not out off just seven deliveries but he perished trying it for a third time, giving Billings a steepling catch running back.

Parkinson wasn’t introduced until the 10th over but he had an immediate impact, Walter lofting to an onrushing Bartlett who made good ground from long-off, departing for 16 with Essex 96-4. They were still well on course, though, needing 60 from the final 10 overs.

Swanepoel conceded 20 runs off his final over to finish with figures of 0-40 and Pepper soon reached his half-century off 29 balls with another boundary.

Parkinson dropped Pepper on 57 in Evison’s first over but, in truth, the game was already up by then with Kent’s bowlers being banished to all parts at more than 10 runs an over.

The impressive Pepper finally went for 76 off 42 balls with Essex just five runs from victory, picking out Finch at deep backward square leg having hit Gilchrist (3-46) for 10 off the two previous balls.

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