Kent Spitfires vs Sussex Sharks

Sunday 18th July – The T20 Vitality Blast – St Lawrence Ground, Canterbury

On the hottest day of the year, with most of the Kent squad still self-isolating and already guaranteed a home quarter-final spot, it wasn’t a surprise that their group campaign ended on a bit of a flat note. Sussex, whilst 87% guaranteed a quarter-final spot themselves, hoped that results elsewhere could see them sneak into second place and also book home advantage in the next round. In the end they made heavy weather of the run chase, eventually winning with just under 3 overs to spare.

Each T20 venue has had a different feel and atmosphere. The raucous nature of Birmingham and Headingley, the appreciative atmosphere at Lords and the Oval, the laid back chilled vibe at Hove, Derby, Glamorgan and Northampton and the lively pockets of fans at Bristol and Southampton. Here at Canterbury it could probably be summed up as polite, bordering on sleepy. Most of the game was played in a quiet hush, whether that was down to the heat or in reverence to the retirement flats on the far side of the ground. I’m sure with more fans allowed in for the quarter-final, it may be a completely different atmosphere.

Kent won the toss and their depleted side, fresh from an impressive win at Lords on Friday where they bowled out the hosts for just 80, went into bat first. They started off well, clocking ten an over before Munsey was the first to fall for 11, although he could have been caught off the 2nd ball of the innings, with Ward at deep mid-wicket slipping as he prepared to catch it Skipper Crawley kept the run rate up before he fell into the trap in the deep, well-held by Robinson.

The tranquillity of the game was being rudely interrupted by the overhead buzz of helicopters, going backwards and forwards from Sandwich where the Open Golf Championships had just finished but it impacted the Kent players more than the Sussex bowlers. Despite having the pace of Archer and Robinson, it was the slower paced Wiese and Bopara who did the damage, bringing the run rate down to 6.5 and picking up five wickets in the process as Kent finished on 130/7 with MacLeod ending top scorer on 31.

This should have been a breeze for the quick-scoring, big-hitting Sussex top order, but in a similar fashion to his performance on Friday at Southampton, Phil Salt fell third ball for zero. Wright and veteran Bopara got the Sharks back on track with a 61 run partnership in nine overs, just keeping ahead of the run rate before Wright was caught by Munsay.

Rawlins, still wearing his outrageous luminous orange boots, put Sussex on course for victory with an innings of 33, supported by Wiese’s 21. A 17th over mini collapse saw Ward and Rawlins dismissed in successive balls, both caught by Kuhn off Podmore, which led to a situation where, with just two runs needed, Sussex didn’t have a batsman ready, with Rashid Khan eventually coming to the wicket still putting his pads on, before hitting the winning runs of the first ball of the 18th over.

Kent will be hoping that they can both expand the seating capacity and the limit on fans for the quarter-final. They end the group stages top of the Southern Group with the second best run rate in the competition. The end of August is a long way away in cricket in these COVID times so who knows what shape either side will be in when they meet. Next up, the Royal London Cup kicks off with Kent in residency in their urban home at Beckenham

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