Matthew Walker's maiden Twenty20 half-century was the undoubted highlight of another sun-drenched night in Beckenham as Kent secured an emphatic 52-run win over Middlesex Crusaders.
Cementing their place at the top of the southern qualifying group with their fourth win from five starts, Spitfires again recovered from a sloppy start to post a defendable total.
Having lost Darren Stevens (6) to a catch behind, Neil Dexter caught on the deep mid-wicket ropes for 18 and Andrew Hall (19) caught at deep square-leg when pulling, Kent were in real danger of collapse.
A disappointing crowd of 2,000 became even quieter when pinch-hitter James Tredwell miscued a pull shot to sky a return catch to Scott Styris and make it 58 for seven after only seven overs.
In the first three years of this competition Kent may well have capitulated at that point. But the class of 2006 are made of sterner stuff as they recovered to post 178 for five courtesy of an unbroken sixth wicket stand of 98 in nine overs between Walker and his skipper Rob Key.
Martin van Jaarsveld chipped in with 19 from 17 balls before he edged an attempted hook through to bring together Key and Walker with 11 overs of the innings gone.
It was then that Walker unfurled an array of shots that raised the crowd from their seats and again gave the Spitires’ attack a decent total to defend.
He reached his maiden Twenty20 50 from 30 balls with four fours and six and celebrated it with another six, while down the other end Key took 33-balls to scored 41 with a further two sixes as Kent virtually doubled their total in eight overs.
It left Crusaders, a team that had lost their first four cup ties, to chase at nine an over for victory – it soon proved well beyond them.
The visitors limped to 32 without loss in five overs but then the wheels fell off their bandwagon as three wickets fell in five deliveries without addition to the score.
The dangerous Owais Shah was first to go losing his leg stump to a Tyron Henderson yorker, Ed Smith then edged a Hall lifter to Niall O’Brien.
Then, two balls later, England international Jamie Dalrymple fenced another vicious delivery from Hall to second slip where van Jaarsveld pulled off a stunning catch.
With the top order back in the pavilion and the middle order under pressure, Kent’s spinners Min Patel and James Tredwell swept up to dismiss Middlesex inside 17.4 overs.
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