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Departing Butler is Spitfires' star turn


NEW ZEALANDER Ian Butler signed off from his short tour of duty for Kent by steering Spitfires to their most dramatic win of a disappointing totesport League campaign with Sunday's last-ball triumph over champions Glamorgan at Sophia Gardens.

Chasing The Dragons' adjusted target of 143 from 25 overs, relegation threatened Kent looked odds on to slip to their seventh successive Division 1 defeat in yet another rain-ruined game.

The visitors had seen the heart ripped out of their reply by an astonishing bowling stint of six for five by England’s latest one-day recruit Alex Wharf, who made the most of a juicy pitch to reduce Spitfires to 104 for seven.

Kent still needed 15 from the last over of the game from veteran all-rounder Adrian Dale, who was making his final appearance for the Welsh, but Butler proved up to the task.

The penultimate ball of the match went for four byes down the leg side then Butler smeared a low full-toss over the ropes at mid-wicket to land an unexpected one-wicket win that gave Spitfires a glimmer of saving their Division 1 status.

Requiring 5.72 an over for a victory that might boost their slender chances of avoiding the drop, Spitfires made a flying start through Ed Smith and David Fulton.

The openers added 46 inside seven overs with Smith contributing a stylish 36 from 23 balls before his demise.

After driving six fours off front and back foot, Smith perished attempting to hook Wharf’s third ball and top-edged a catch to David Hemp at long leg and bring in his landlord, Alex Loudon.

The tall right-hander struggled for timing and soon perished when Dale direct hit from cover sent him packing run out, after Fulton’s suicidal call for a single.

Fulton soon followed leg before in Wharf’s next over, the 11th of the innings, to make it 61 for three.

That bought together the experienced Robert Key and Matthew Walker, but at the mid-point of the innings Key needlessly aimed an ambitious smear across the line to Wharf then, two balls later, Geraint Jones’ lost his off stump to a shooter.

After a short rest Wharf returned to bag two more Kent wickets having Michael Carberry (19) and Robert Ferley (0) caught behind to post Glamorgan’s best ever league figures against Kent.

Matt Dennington and Walker both fell in the late slog and headed back to the pavilion fearing the worst until Butler’s unbeaten 18 turned the game on its head.

Earlier, the hosts and newly crowned champions overcame a two and three-quarter hour rain-break and the loss of 20 overs to post 142 for seven with the best contributions coming from Matthew Elliott and David Hemp.

The Spitfires had reduced the Dragons to 47 for two before the heavens opened during the ninth over of the home innings.

Rob Joseph sent back Robert Croft (8) to a regulation catch by Jones, who was making a rare county appearance, to make it 10 for one.

Butler plucked out the middle stump of Wharf (18) just before the rain arrived to force the players from the pitch. Play resumed at 4.30pm and 40 overs were lost as the hosts resumed their innings with 16.5 overs to go.

Next man in Michael Powell went to the first ball after the resumption in slicing a Butler half-volley to Walker at backward point.

Former England batman Matthew Maynard survived the hat-trick ball, a good yorker, but went just five balls later after top-edging an attempted sweep off Ferley to deep mid-wicket where Loudon pulled off a low running catch.

Left-handers Elliott and Hemp worked the ball around nicely in adding 59 in 11 overs, Hemp taking a brace of sixes off Loudon, the first clear over extra cover the second over long-off via Butler’s hands as he attempted to catch.

Elliott scored 44 from 67 with four boundaries before his uppish drive against a Joseph slower ball flew to Dennington at long-off.

Hemp went for a run-a-ball 40 to a good catch in the deep over his right shoulder by Ferley, but some late clubbing by another left-hander, Mark Wallace, took him to 16 in 10 balls before Ferley ran him out backing up.

Butler closed with two for 11 and Joseph two for 34 in a workmanlike fielding performance by Kent, but there were no signs of the heroic battle ahead.

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