It's Blake's heaven as Kent hold Sussex to T20 Blast tie

Laurie Evans / Picture by Phil Westlake
Laurie Evans / Picture by Phil Westlake

A rain-shortened contest at Hove ended in a thrilling tie on Duckworth-Lewis as Alex Blake hit the stumps from long on to run out Laurie Evans as he tried to complete a second run for Chris Nash.

Nash finished 50 not out as Sussex ended up on 87 for 3 in reply to Kent’s 176 for 4.

Kent’s total owed much to Sam Billings and Jimmy Neesham, who added a record 102 in ten overs for the fourth wicket and scored 64 and 51 not out respectively before heavy rain interrupted this NatWest T20 Blast south group match.

The final over of the game, bowled by Mitch Claydon, Sussex’s eighth as they chased a revised target, began with just eight runs required and both Nash and Evans going well.

Evans hit the first ball for two to long on and, after Claydon sent down a wide and then a dot ball, there were three singles as the fast bowler held his nerve amid mounting tension. That left Nash needing two to win, and one to tie, from the last ball – which he drove towards Blake at long on. The fielder sprinted in to pick up and throw down the stumps at the bowler’s end.

A diving Evans just failed to make the crease and Blake wheeled away, his arm raised in triumph, before being surrounded by his celebrating team-mates. Grabbing the tie was certainly to Kent’s credit, and particularly to Claydon’s as his first over had earlier been despatched for 18 runs.

Nash said: "It’s hard to be delighted or upset. It was a bit gutting to get so close and not win but I thought we did a lot of good things in the game. The throw off the last ball to get a tie came in off the boundary and the chances of that normally happening are 1 in 20. We just have to move onto the next game.

"I felt in really good nick and it was nice to hit a few sixes. I’ve had a stop-start summer but hopefully I am hopefully off and running. It’s been frustrating because we have had two games rained off. We have played well since losing the first two games and if we’re targeting seven wins, because that should get us through to the quarter-finals."

Sussex’s chase, of 88 from eight overs, began well with Nash and Luke Wright plundering 19 from the opening over, bowled by Matt Coles.

Nash flicked Coles’ first ball over mid-wicket for four and then lifted the second ball of the innings over the legside ropes for six. Later in the over, Wright pulled Coles for six, but in the second over he was caught for 8 at long on attempting another big hit at Neesham.

Ross Taylor soon followed, chipping a return catch to medium-pacer Calum Haggett, but Nash effortlessly lofted Imran Qayyum’s left arm spin high over extra cover for six in the fourth over and the next, Claydon’s first, cost 18 runs as Nash twice swung him over mid wicket for six before Evans square drove for four.

A Coles full toss was smashed over square leg for six by Evans, in an otherwise tidy sixth over, leaving Sussex to score 20 from the last two. In a remarkable seventh over, Nash pulled a Neesham full toss for six off the first ball but was then perplexed by the next four deliveries – a mixture of slower ones and fast, short-pitched balls – before carving the final ball over Blake’s head at long on for another six.

That blow looked to have sealed the game for Sussex, but then came the dramatic finale and Evans’ run out for 23. Nash’s 50 took him just 25 balls, with six sixes and one four.

Billings’ 64 came from 42 balls, with one six and nine fours, while New Zealand left-hander Neesham clubbed five sixes and just a solitary four in an impressive 51 not out from 30 balls as 112 runs were plundered from the second half of the innings. Chris Jordan, the England seamer, conceded 43 runs from his three overs.

Kent were 64 for 3 at the mid-point of their innings, losing Sam Northeast in the tenth over when the captain cut hard at a sharply-rising short ball from George Garton and edged behind to go for 28 off 25 balls. Northeast had pulled Jordan and swatted Briggs for sixes as he sought to rebuild a Kent innings which had stuttered initially to 33 for 2 following the early fall of openers Joe Denly and Daniel Bell-Drummond.

Denly had launched David Wiese’s medium pace for six over wide mid-wicket before being superbly caught for 16 by keeper Ben Brown, diving a long way to his left to hold an authentic leg glance off the pace of Tymal Mills. Bell-Drummond, however, had struggled to 5 from 15 balls before skying an attempted hoick at a short ball from Jofra Archer to cover.

Neesham swung Danny Briggs’s left arm spin high over mid wicket for six as he and Billings, who had begun carefully, began to accelerate the scoring rate. The fourteen over, bowled by Garton, signalled the start of the Kentish charge, with Billings driving the young left-armer with stunning power through extra cover for four and then flipping the next ball, a short one, to the deep square leg boundary. Later in the over, Neesham clubbed four through square leg and after 15 overs the Kent total had reached 114.

The last five overs saw Sussex’s bowlers become powerless the staunch the rapid flow of runs as Billings and Neesham took control. Billings pulled Mills for four and then slapped a slower ball straight for another boundary, while Neesham pulled Garton brutally for six.

The partnership sailed past Kent’s previous record for the fourth wicket against Sussex, the unbroken 91 added by Billings and Blake at Hove in 2015, and had reached three figures by the time Billings drove Jordan to Wiese at long on from the fourth ball of the final over.

Kent’s innings, though, finished in spectacular style as Neesham lapped a Jordan full toss over the unguarded fine leg boundary for six and then, from the last ball, flipped another six over long leg to complete his half-century.