Smith’s five wickets lead Essex to victory over Kent

22:10 20 June 2012

James Foster, Essex wicketkeeper

James Foster, Essex wicketkeeper

EMPICS Sport

T20 Southern group: Essex 158-6 beat Kent 155 all out by three runs

Five wickets in two overs for just nine runs from Greg Smith helped Essex Eagles to what could be a vital win over the Kent Spitfires.

With the Southern group traditionally tight victory over their bitter rivals could give the Eagles the fillip they need after losing their opening game against Surrey.

The South African picked up five victims including set batsmen Sam Billings (59) and Brendan Nash (26), while he also bowled Geraint Jones- all in the 16th over- to swing the game back in his side’s favour.

The game was delicately poised with four overs remaining, with Kent requiring 10 an over, but Smith bowled accurately to all but end the Spitfire challenge.

Earlier in the day a much-needed 51 from 27 balls by skipper James Foster gave his side’s innings some impetus after coming in when his side were struggling at 76-4.

Missing England duo Alastair Cook and Ravi Bopara was an expected blow for the Eagles but losing Owais Shah to injury was not.

Foster’s half century meant the Eagles ended their innings strongly after a stop start beginning and middle.

Kent bowled well and even when they did stray excellent field placings from Robert Key meant the visitors did not suffer great punishment.

Eagles made a streaky start as Mark Pettini edged the first ball of the innings off Mark Davies to a diving James Tredwell at slip, who failed to cling on.

The former skipper wasn’t to last too much longer though as he attempted to cut one too close to his body and edged Davies behind to wicketkeeper Geraint Jones.

Graham Napier made an immediate impression as he hit Davies over cover for four while a Matt Coles full toss was given the same treatment in the fourth over.

Whereas Napier showed power opener James Franklin showed class, timing Darren Stevens through the offside off his first delivery, before caressing one through mid-wicket two deliveries later. And Franklin made it 14 from the over as he pulled Stevens through mid-on.

Franklin showed equally good form off spin as he smacked two fours back over Tredwell’s head.

His innings and the momentum he brought ended in the first ball of the 11th as he was yorked by England under-19 skipper Adam Ball for 39 from 41 balls to leave the hosts 59-2.

Napier didn’t last too much longer as he was run out by Stevens labouring for a third, while Ryan Ten Doeschate was next to go as he was bowled by Ball.

The 100 was brought up in the 13th over thanks in the main to Foster who was his usual busy self at the crease.

It was the skipper who registered the first six of the innings as he smacked a filthy Coles full toss to cow corner. Greg Smith departed for 11 caught by Key off Coles, before Foster hit another maximum off the young paceman.

Coles’ nightmare continued as Adam Wheater weighed in with another six before a waste high full toss was also dispatched over the ropes by Foster in the final over to push the hosts past 150.

David Masters was typically accurate and after bowling Key for five, trapped Azhar Mahmood lbw the next ball, finishing with figures of 2-24 from his four.

Young Kent star Sam Billings looked classy at the crease and he and Stevens re-built, although after 10 overs were 61-2.

Needing almost 100 runs from the final 10, they made the worst start to the second half of their innings as danger man Stevens skied a Ten Doeschate delivery down the throat of Topley after making 21.

Billings was in no mood to let up as a Topley half tracker was smashed for six and the young Kent man brought up his half century with a towering maximum past Ten Doeschate to keep his side in the match.

Brendan Nash brought calmness to the Kent innings but with five overs left the visitors still needed 55.

Twelve runs from Napier’s third over kept the Spitfires in the contest but Smith got the key wicket of Billings with the first ball of the next as he lofted one to Pettini and after the batsmen crossed Nash went after edging behind to Foster.

Smith made it three for the over after bowling Geraint Jones as Essex looked set for victory.

The South African had Sam Northeast caught by Comber for his fourth wicket before grabbing his sixth as Topley caught Coles.

Lusty blows kept the visitors in the game but a run out in the final over, before Napier bowled Mark Davies with the final delivery of the innings.

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