As the T20 Blast group stage draws to a close on Friday evening, Kent make the short trip up to Chelmsford to take on Essex in a match that will have a significant bearing on who makes the top four.
Kent are sitting pretty atop the South Group table and are already confirmed to finish top of the pile. With nine wins from their 13 group games thus far, the south-east side have been masterful in this year’s competition, and will simply be playing to keep form ahead of their home quarter-final next month.
However, last time out, they were beaten in a one-run thriller with Glamorgan at Tunbridge Wells, a defeat that halted a run of five successive victories. Sam Northeast will lead the batting line-up in the format that has seen him accumulate 627 runs in 13 innings.
This match is certainly a lot more important for Essex, who know that a victory would make them almost definite qualifiers due to their superior run rate. Having won three of their last four matches, Essex have hauled themselves into contention for a knockout place, and will not want to miss out at the final hurdle.
In their previous match, Essex restricted Middlesex to just 150 thanks to some tight bowling from Aussie speed merchant Shaun Tait. Jesse Ryder and Tom Westley then knocked the runs off with overs to spare. Essex’s bowling has certainly been their strength this season, with Topley, Tait, Bopara and Napier having taken 65 wickets between them.
Kent skipper Sam Northeast has been in the form of his life during this year’s T20 Blast, as he’s blitzed himself to 627 runs at a strike rate of over 150, including a superb innings of 114. Northeast needs to score at least 27 more runs than Gloucestershire’s Michael Klinger on Friday night to become this season highest run scorer.
Having been apparently discarded by England, Ravi Bopara has spent his time terrorising county sides in this year’s T20 Blast. In scoring 284 runs and taking 18 wickets, Bopara have proved invaluable to his Essex side. Bopara’s experience may also be vital in what is a must win match for Essex.
Kent have resisted the urge to rest players and have named a full strength squad for this match, with both Matt Coles and Ivan Thomas returning to the side.
Kent Spitfires squad: Sam Northeast (c), Daniel Bell-Drummond, Joe Denly, Sam Billings (wk), Fabian Cowdrey, Darren Stevens, Alex Blake, Adam Ball, Matt Coles, James Tredwell, Mitch Claydon, Matt Hunn, Ivan Thomas.
Essex Eagles squad: Ryan ten Doeschate (c), Jesse Ryder, Mark Pettini, Tom Westley, Ravi Bopara, James Foster, Graham Napier, David Masters, Reece Topley, Shaun Tait, Nick Browne, Jamie Porter
Date: 24th July 2015
Odds: Essex 8/11, Kent 11/10