by Andrew Gidley
Kent Spitfires' hopes of a Clydesdale Bank Pro 40 semi-final spot ended with a comprehensive nine-wicket defeat with 10 overs to spare in front of a 3,500 Bank Holiday Monday crowd at Canterbury.
The winning run came off a wide conceded by Matt Coles, whose five overs cost 53 runs.
Luke Wright was Sussex’s match-winner, returning to form with an unbeaten 101 containing 13 fours. He shared a century stand with England’s Matt Prior who finished 78 not out, including three sixes, as the Sharks finished on 211-1.
Rob Key’s men started the game a point clear at the top, but the victory confirmed Sharks as group winners with Warwickshire Bears pipping Spitfires for a place in the last four as best placed runners-up after beating Yorkshire in a rain-reduced contest at Scarborough.
Brendan Nash (pictured) hit 51 not out, while Geraint Jones made an unbeaten 37 off 18 balls, including two sixes and three fours as 54 came off the last five overs. It boosted the total to 210-5, but it was soon evident it wasn't enough.
Openers Chris Nash and Wright had 50 on the board inside six overs, with Coles conceding 13 off his first over.
Spitfires struggled for runs earlier, after Key won the toss and batted first on a slow greenish pitch against a Sharks attack including three spinners.
Sam Billings hit two early fours, before edging to Prior at first slip, but Key looked in good form. He made 40 before gloving Kirk Werners to keeper Ben Brown, who took a smart catch.
Sam Northeast went to youngster Will Beer for 21 and Darren Stevens was run out on 32, after being called for a second run by Nash.
Alex Blake reversed swept successfully twice but missed out a third time against Michael Yardy to fall for 15.
Jones began with two sixes off former Sharks skipper Yardy as he and Nash added 50 in 27 balls in a late flurry, the latter reaching his half-century off 59 balls with only one boundary.
Picture: Barry Goodwin