Spitfires start off with labored win
The Kent Spitfires won the opening game of their defence of the Twenty20 Cup by six wickets in a dramatic final over in gloomy conditions at Canterbury.
With just two balls to spare, a Corey Collymore delivery went through the legs of wicketkeeper Matt Prior to run away for four byes to hand victory to the Spitfires as they ended on 140-4.
Azhar Mahmood had hit an unbeaten 19 including a four and a six at the end to take the Spitfires over the line with just a ball to spare.
Corey Collymore bowled Joe Denly round his legs with just three balls remaining and three runs to win to set up a tense final over.
The 22-year-old from Whitstable had scored an excellent knock of 50 to steer his side close to victory but Collymore’s strike set up a tense end.
The defending champions chased down Sussex Sharks’ 137 all out to win by six wickets – but they had to wait until the final over to complete the win.
Kent looked as though they were cruising to victory with just 45 runs to get from six overs, but the loss of a couple of wickets and gloomy conditions meant for a tense finish at the St Lawrence Ground.
More than 5,500 packed into the St Lawrence Ground to watch the first round of the all action Twenty20 competition.
The Spitfires cruised to 68 before losing their first wicket. Skipper Rob Key used some inventive shots including a paddle shot over the wicketkeeper’s head as both he and opener Joe Denly accumulated runs without any risk until Key decided to up the ante. The Kent skipper holed out to Rory Hamilton-Brown at log-on off the bowling of Mike Yardy for 34 to leave the Spitfires 68-1.
Denly and Martin van Jaarsveld added 24 before the latter walked after edging Dwayne Smith to Matt prior behind the stumps for seven.
Justin Kemp joined Denly and clubbed a mighty six over long on before being trapped in front of the stumps by Smith for 11 to reduce Kent to 108-3.
In fading light, new batsman Darren Stevens was struck by a short ball from England one-day star Luke Wright that landed on a stump but failed to remove the bail. Play was interrupted for several minutes as Stevens had blood pouring from his nose, which eventually led to him retiring.
Big hitting Azhar Mahmood strolled to the crease and hit a four and a six off West Indian Corey Collymore to ease the pressure on the Spitfires.
Earlier in the day, Spitfires captain Rob Key won the toss and elected to field and it looked a good decision as his bowlers did the job for him, particularly Pakistani all-rounder Yasir Arafat who finished with tidy figures of 4-17, and James Tredwell with 2-17.
Arafat took a wicket with his first ball of his spell, forcing Matt Prior to run one off the face of his bat into the gloves of wicketkeeper Geraint Jones for just three.
He then accounted for danger man Luke Wright, who scored a blistering hundred against the Spitfires at Canterbury last season, for just one to leave the Sharks in trouble at 5-2.
Wright went for a big shot intended for the cover boundary, but instead managed to sky the ball to third man and into the waiting hands of James Tredwell, who took a regulation catch.
The first boundary didn’t come until the three overs and four balls, something of a rarity in this form of the game when Sussex captain Chris Adams thrashed a ball from Arafat to ‘cow corner.’
The next wicket to go was Zimbabwean Murray Goodwin thanks to a smart catch from Martin van Jaarsveld. The Kent vice-captain plucked a fierce shot out of the air at cover to dismiss Goodwin for 11 off the bowling of Ryan McLaren.
Sussex new signing Dwayne Smith joined Adams at the wicket and the pair put on an entertaining 65 with an array of shots around the wicket. Smith hit two big sixes before James Tredwell induced him into a false stroke and he was caught at mid wicket by a tumbling Darren Stevens for 28.
Adams continued the fight and brought up his 50 with a tickle down the leg side and then a huge straight six off Ryan McLaren. The Sharks skipper went for a similar shot next ball but didn’t quite get enough on it as Justin Kemp took a simple catch just inside the long on boundary. Adams departed for 57 which included five fours and two sixes from 37 balls to leave Sussex 111-5 in the 14th over.
It was soon 118-6 when Mike Yardy toe-ended one straight into the hands of Rob Key at wide mid on for three.
Tredwell proved effective and miserly, conceding just seven runs in two overs, and in his third he forced Rory Hamilton-Brown into a big shot which he failed to get enough on, allowing van Jaarsveld to take a catch at long-off.
The wickets continued to tumble as the Sharks looked for late runs and Pakistani all-rounder Arafat returned at the Nackington Road end to profit. He claimed the wicket of Carl Hopkinson for nine, caught by Stevens at long off.
Azhar Mahmood returned for the penultimate over and cleaned up Robin Martin-Jenkins with his first ball. Martin-Jenkins failed to connect with a straight fall toss that uprooted his middle stump.
West Indian Corey Collymore was the last to go, bowled by Arafat for four which leaves the Spitfires with 138 to win.