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Stevens' stars as Kent dismiss Surrey to go through

Darren Stevens finished unbeaten on 46
Darren Stevens finished unbeaten on 46

Surrey v Kent

KENT saved their cup best until last by cruising to a six-wicket win over Surrey to qualify for the Twenty20 quarter finals for the second year in succession.

The Spitfires hero and man-of-the-match was Darren Stevens, who batted the visitors to their first ever cup win over the Brown Caps to clinch second place in the southern qualifying group and ensure that Surrey fail to make the knock-out stages for the first time in five years.

Chasing Surrey's disappointing total of 145 all out, Kent coped with fading light and a hugely partisan crowd to get home to their fourth win of the campaign with five balls to spare.

Joe Denly and his latest opening partner Matt Walker got the side off to a no-frills start to the reply, yet still had 26 on the board within three overs when Denly (12) lost his middle and off stumps to a Matt Nicholson yorker.

But Nicholson's next over was more to Kent's liking as the visitors helped themselves to 16 runs, including a straight drive from Walker for the first and only six of the match.

Acting skipper Martin van Jaarsveld then teamed up with Walker to add 54 in five overs for the second wicket, Walker contributing 39 from 28 balls, his top score in Twenty20 this term, before he edged behind off leg-spinner Chris Schofield.

In the next over van Jaarsveld (18) sold his wicket too cheaply by making room to cut only to allow Nayan Doshi's arm-ball through to hit middle and off and make it 76 for three.

It was softly, softly in the middle order as singles and twos kept the board ticking over as Darren Stevens and Geraint Jones added 38 in six overs.

Jones contributed nine from 18 balls without a boundary before he tossed away his wicket, heaving a Schofield full-toss to deep mid-wicket as the visitors cut the requirement down to 25 off the last three overs.

Stevens eased the pressure with boundaries off Doshi and Azhar Mahmood on the way to his top cup score this season and, with 16 needed off the last two, he cracked a cover drive to the ropes off Nicholson then Ryan McLaren impudently flicked over short fine leg for four to leave Spitfires to get two from the final over.

Fittingly, it was Stevens who won it, clipping a Mahmood full-toss off his hip for four through backward point to see Kent to a famous win with six wickets in hand.

Stevens finished unbeaten with 46 from 34 balls with five fours - the top score of the night.

Having lost their last two games to Middlesex and Sussex, the Brown Caps had batted like a team under pressure in front of a 23,000 crowd - the first ever county game to sell out by advance ticket sales at The Brit Oval.

After a brisk opening stand of 35 in 23 balls between James Benning and Ali Brown it was Morne Morkel, playing his final game for the Spitfires before jetting off on a South Africa Academy tour of Australia, who gave the visitors the breakthrough they desperately needed.

Benning had clattered four boundaries in his 16-ball innings of 21 but, just before getting out, had been freshened up by a short one in the ribs from the young 22-year-old paceman. Next ball up, Benning's first movement was back to square-leg, his second back to the pavilion after he edged a wild slash through to Geraint Jones.

In the next over Ryan McLaren struck with his fourth ball from the Pavilion End by up-rooting Ali Brown's off stump with a perfect yorker that send the right-hander packing for 15 from 13 balls.

That bought together the hugely experienced pairing of Mark Ramprakash and Mark Butcher for a stand of 24 in four overs, but credit to Kent's bowlers, they maintained the pressure to force another breakthrough in the ninth over when Cook had Butcher (10) caught at long on when an attempted pull came too high off the bat blade.

Ramprakash received a life when on 25, he too mistimed a hook against Morkel, but the flight deceived Yasir Arafat at long leg and he never looked likely to claim the catch, worse still he allowed the ball to go for four.

With James Tredwell sending down four tight overs for 28 from the Vauxhall End, Surrey needed to force the pace and that proved their undoing in Cook's 13th over of the night.

Azhhar Mahmood (14) lost off stump when trying to make room to force through the off side then, three balls later, Ramprakash (33) skied to deep mid-wicket where Denly took a great catch sprinting in from the ropes.

With the late thrash approaching, Rikki Clarke (13) perished when his sliced drive off Yasir Arafat was well held by Darren Stevens over the shoulder when running back from point then, in the same over, Jonathan Batty (16) holed out to Ryan McLaren at long-on.

Chris Schofield (4) gifted McLaren a second wicket when he shuffled across leaving his stumps exposed then two more fell in the final over from Arafat as Surrey failed to bat out the entire 20 overs.

Nicholson (4) was run out backing up too far then Neil Saker heaved across the line to go leg before from the penultimate ball of the innings.

Kent had caught superbly and bowled equally well; Morkel, though he might have had Ramprakash, proved the most expensive with one for 31, but Cook excelled again with three for 21 and Arafat recovered from a shaky start to finish with three for 24. McLaren gave good support with two for 29.

Had they hit the stumps with a brace of possible run out chances Spitfires might have routed the Brown Caps for even less, but as it was, the target was well within their compass.

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