Kent and Essex will resume their “Battle of the Bridge” when the two meet in a vital clash at the St Lawrence Ground, Canterbury, with plenty to play for in a congested South Group in the Natwest T20 Blast.
The Spitfires and Eagles are two of five sides locked on eight points, with the race for a place in the last eight hotting up as the competition reaches and breaches its halfway stage. Only four counties from each league can make it to the Promised Land and the knockout stages.
On paper, Essex’s tally of eight games played so far makes them the outsiders for a last quarter-final berth having played the most of those competing, but a run of form that has seen the Eagles win their last three games and propel themselves firmly back into the running.
Having lacked a groove early in their season, victories against Gloucestershire, Surrey and most recently Sussex has seen Paul Grayson’s men head towards a position many predicted the powerful outfit to be at the start of the campaign.
“We always had confidence in the group that they would turn around that early season form”, Grayson commented. “ It was a tough start because of injuries and players unavailability but we knew that, once everyone had returned and we got a bit of confidence back, we would prove ourselves to be a good Limited Overs side,
“If we can get a win against Kent, and follow-up with victory over Glamorgan, then the competition will be starting to look good for us but we know that both those sides will be a stiff challenge for us.”
Kent, contrastingly, are looking to regain their form having won four out of their first five in the competition, but consecutive defeats have threatened to unstable the Spitfires who play their last T20 home game for four weeks when the Eagles come calling.
Jimmy Adams’ early pacesetters have been the victims of imperious batting in recent times, with both Gloucestershire and Hampshire bullying the Canterbury outfit to chase imperious totals, ending their excellent start in the process.
As the two sides resume the battle for the Mike Denness Challenge Shield, in recognition of the former Kent and Essex opener, the pair last met in the format at Colchester in 2014, where the East Anglian county made 209 for five in a 63-run victory at the outground.
Having started the season with five fifties to his name, Sam Northeast has notched some impressive scores including his maiden T20 century to find himself second in the run-scoring charts. Second only to Michael Klinger, the 25 year-old has 398 runs to his name including a superb 114 against Somerset in a game where Kent racked up 227. This game also marks five years to the day from when Northeast made his T20 debut.
Few players can boast two T20 centuries, and even fewer have an average better than 40 in cricket’s shortest format. Tom Westley has both. The Essex opener has proved himself as an integral part of the Eagles’ line-up, despite their firepower further down the order, with the first of his tons coming against Kent in last year’s fixture at Colchester. Westley has also made three 50s in five innings so far this term.
At the tender age of 18 years and 219 days, Ryan Davies made his T20 debut for the Spitfires after featuring against Derbyshire in a Championship appearance. The youngster looks set to continue behind the stumps for Kent, who have named a 12-man squad for this game.
Kent Spitfires squad: Sam Northeast (captain), Adam Ball, Alex Blake, Daniel Bell-Drummond, Mitchell Claydon, Matt Coles, Fabian Cowdrey, Ryan Davies (wicketkeeper), Joe Denly, Darren Stevens, Ivan Thomas, James Tredwell
Essex have named a 13-man squad for their trip to Canterbury, with David Masters and Reece Topley joining the XI who featured in the emphatic County Championship victory against Derbyshire in the week.
Essex Eagles squad: Ryan ten Doeschate (captain), Ravi Bopara, Nick Browne, James Foster (wicketkeeper), Mark Pettini, David Masters, Graham Napier, Aron Nijjar, Jesse Ryder, Shaun Tait, Reece Topley, Kishen Velani, Tom Westley,
Weather and Conditions
Sunny intervals are expected to mingle with cloud through the day at Canterbury, but, most significantly, rain is not forecast. Expect a full game at the St Lawrence Ground.
Date: Thursday 18th June 2015
Ground: St Lawrence Ground, Canterbury
Time: 6:30pm, Live on Sky Sports
Umpires: Neil Bainton & Nigel Cowley (Russell Evans as Third Umpire)
Odds (via SkyBet): Kent Evens, Essex 4/5