Spitfires run chase runs out of steam
On a perfect night for cricket in Canterbury, Spitfires slipped to a fourth Twenty20 Cup defeat as visitors Surrey held their nerve to win a thrilling match by six runs.
Set to better the Browncaps total of 166-7 in this their penultimate tie of the Twenty20 Cup Southern group qualifiers, Kent were dismissed for 160 despite an heroic 50 from former Surrey all-rounder Azhar Mahmood.
Opening up the reply, Joe Denly got off the mark with the biggest six of the night, a huge pull off Jade Dernbach but, with his score on seven the young right-hander sliced a Dernbach full-toss to short cover.
Two balls later Rob Key (14) danced down the pitch to Abdur Razzaq but the bowler saw him coming and dropped it short, Key attempted to pull but the ball came high off the bat and sailed to Chris Murtagh at deep square leg.
Matt Walker, playing his first cup tie of the season, was joined by Darren Stevens in attempting to take on Surrey’s spin threat at both ends in leg-spinner Chris Schofield and off-spinner Matthew Spriegel.
After the Kent third wicket pair added 21 it was Schofield who won the battle, pegging back the off stump of Stevens (15) after he missed an attempted sweep then having Walker (7), cutting hard at a wide one, caught at backward point.
Spriegel then got in on the act by having Martin van Jaarsveld (1) caught at deep mid wicket off a miscued pull shot that made it 55-5.
The young Loughborough University spinner should have enjoyed more success but he had Yasir Arafat dropped twice in an over, by Razzaq at mid-wicket when on 12, then by Scott Newman at long-on while on 14.
With both spinners out of the attack, Azhar Mahmood took that as his cue to go wild against his former side’s seam bowlers.
He hit two fours of Jimmy Ormond to post Kent’s 100 in the 14th over, then Arafat joined in by cutting a boundary to third man and driving another to long-on where Spriegel let it slip through his grasp and over the ropes.
The pair added 68 in 36 balls before Arafat, on 27 from 18, went leg before when trying to cut a straight ball from Razzaq.
So 42 were needed from the last four overs with Geraint Jones at the crease to partner Azhar. The atmosphere grew tense when Mahmood and Dernbach squared up after a low beamer, but Mahmood had the final say by clipping a Dernbach full-toss for six later in the over to move to an amazing 25-ball fifty with seven fours.
With the asking rate down to 25 off two overs, Jones (5) swung and missed at Ormond to lose his off stump but Ryan McLaren marched in to take 10 off the next over to leave the hosts chasing 14 off the last six balls.
Azhar (55) clipped the first ball from Razzaq to deep mid-wicket where Murtagh took a stunning catch on the run then, off the penultimate ball and with eight needed, 17-year-old substitute fielder Jason Rob took an equally fine catch on the ropes at mid-wicket to dismiss McLaren (16) and secure Surrey’s six-run win.
Razzaq, the man-of-the-match finished with 4-17, while Chris Schofield bagged 2-29.
Under blue skies and with a hard white pitch to bat on, both captains would have wanted to bat first, but Surrey's Mark Ramprakash called the toss correctly and took first use.
After an opening stand worth 66 between Scott Newman (38) and Ali Brown (30) it was Brown who perished first, edging behind to Geraint Jones after chasing a wide one on the drive.
Chris Murtagh went without scoring when working across the line to Ryan McLaren he missed out and lost his off bail.
Then Newman (38), in wanting an impossible second run, was sent back by partner Abdur Razzaq to be run out by Joe Denly's rapier-like throw.
Usman Afzaal (2) then attempted to work a length ball from James Tredwell through mid-wicket but a leading edge flew high to Martin van Jaarsveld and, at 91-4, Surrey were in deep trouble.
The Browncaps re-grouped through top-scorer Razzaq (39) and Jonathan Batty who added 53 in six overs for the fifth wicket before Batty also skied to van Jaarsveld to give Azhar Mahmood the first of his 2-41 return.
In the late flurry Razzaq ballooned a catch to Key at square leg then Mark Ramprakash clipped a low full toss to Denly at deep mid-wicket to leave Kent with a reasonably comfortable total to chase.