Kent fall short of Surrey
Mark Butcher's innings of 60 allowed Surrey to gain their third Twenty20 Cup win of the season.
The rebuilding work at the Oval's Vauxhall End is being matched on the field. Surrey's gripping victory against Kent virtually assured their place in the last eight as the Twenty20 continues to provide their flat season with a plenty of stimulation.
Unbeaten since the competition began last season, Surrey have won three out of four matches this year - the other was a wash-out - and it will take an almighty beating in their final match and some freak results elsewhere to squander a quarter-final place.
For Kent their second loss in the competition leaves them relying on a backdoor route into the next round as one of the best third-placed finishes. It is a scenario that could and should have been avoided.
Needing 42 off their last five overs and with Rob Key looking nothing like the player who struggled for England, they were favourites to win.
But Surrey are strong in this competition for two reasons. Firstly they are adept at winning from tight situations and, secondly, they have Adam Hollioake. After Key had thumped three straight sixes off Nayan Doshi in the 15th over, Surrey captain Jon Batty reinstalled Hollioake to the attack and he struck immediately, dismissing Geraint Jones with a slower ball.
Key though, who hit four fours and five sixes in his unbeaten 66, gave Kent hope and they needed 18 off the final over. He thumped the first ball off Hollioake for six and was dropped off the third by Rikki Clarke at long on. Kent's failure to take two on the drop was costly and Hollioake was able to quell their resistance.
It was a thrilling conclusion for another large crowd. Scheduling is the secret of this competition's success. Both Twenty20 matches at the Oval have been sell-outs and both have been on Friday nights. Watching a few sixes after work and before a night out is proving a draw. The only downside for Surrey is that the building works have reduced capacity to little over 7,000 and reduced the Mexican wave to a short ripple.
The Surrey performance matched the surroundings. It was bitty. Despite a short boundary under the gasometers, they managed just one six and only Mark Butcher was able to build any kind of innings.
He and Greg Blewett added 99 in 10 overs for the third wicket and their efforts had seemingly set up Surrey for a late thrash but three run-outs saw them lose four wickets in the final two overs and they posted their lowest score in the competition this season.
Blewett, who enjoyed moderate success in a brief spell for Kent last season, is finding it tough making the transition from Australian off season to the demands of Twenty20 cricket. His form, five runs in his previous two matches, was patchy again as he struggled to find his timing. When he did find the middle of the bat the formidable frame of umpire Graham Burgess got in the way.
It was left to Butcher to take on the role of senior partner and he responded with a second successive fifty in the competition. Rarely a regular in the Surrey one-day side and a complete stranger to England's limited overs team, Butcher is loving every minute of this season's Twenty20 competition.
He was the benefactor of some shabby Kent fielding - a skyer was dropped by Matthew Dennington when Butcher was on 30 - but he soon found his timing and 11 fours followed, the best a late cut off Shahid Afridi.
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