Brilliant Bopara’s ton earns Sussex Sharks T20 win over Kent Spitfures
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Bopara played a magnificent, almost chanceless, innings to record his highest ever T20 score of 108 from 53 balls, with 18 fours and just one six, as Sussex posted a massive 228 for seven, Tom Clark getting their next highest score with 47.
Kent were 31 for one in reply after 3.2 overs when heavy rain began to fall and they were set a revised target of 129 from 10 overs via the Duckworth-Lewis Method. Needing to hit out as soon as play resumed, they lost wickets too regularly to seriously threaten Sussex and finished on 117 for four, although they remain in the top four.
Bopara said: “I’m pleased and for it come now as well. I’ve been batting middle order pretty much all my life so it’s just nice because hundreds are hard to come by when you’re batting middle order. I always had dreams of getting at least one more and I’m glad it’s come.
“I’m glad it’s come here as well, I was proper up for today.”
On only getting one T20 hundred before this, Bopara said: “I think that’s more to do with the position I bat. T20 hundreds are more for openers and number threes. It’s not often you get them at five, six where I’ve batted for most of my career. You’d have to do it from about 30 odd balls if you’re going to do it from there and I’m not quite capable of that. I’m not big and strong enough!
“The thing with T20 is you can be in a great place and hit three or four great shots and still get out. You might hit a really good shot straight to a fielder so it’s never one where you think I’m going to score runs today. In a four-day game it’s different, you can think right I’m on today, unless I get an absolute jaffa I’m scoring runs but T20 you haven’t got that control.
He was surprised to learn Essex had lost and that Sussex could still qualify for the last eight – even if it is a very long shot.
“I did speak about that before the game. We’re not out of it so let’s turn up today, let’s get to 14 points and let the other two mess it. Let’s see. As the competition guys have adopted I wanted from the start which is play with more freedom. Hit more sixes than the opposition, get more boundaries and if you want to go for wickets as a bowler, go or wickets. I don’t care if you get smacked.
"I think that’s now really taking effect. I don’t need to put too much price on my wicket, I don’t need to put too much price on the overs I bowl. It’s a game of luck so you’ve just got to ride it some times.”
It was another Friday night sell-out at the Spitfire Ground, but Kent’s decision to bowl first soon backfired as they struggled to cope with damp and blustery conditions.
Jack Leaning bowled Harrison Ward for five with the fifth ball of the night and Oli Carter also went early, chipping Matt Quinn to Michael Hogan at mid on for three but from 14 for two the Sharks launched a blistering counter-attack. Bopara cover drove his first ball for four and took 14 from the over. Clark then took 18 from Leaning’s next over and it was 73 for two by the end of the powerplay, by which time persistent drizzle was falling.
Clark looked in incendiary form, but when he tried to take a single off Joey Evison he was sent back by Bopara and run out by George Linde.
Shadab Khan came in and hit Linde for successive sixes, but when he tried to repeat the feat he was caught by Jordan Cox on the boundary for 15.
Michael Burgess hit 21 from 14, but after switch-hitting Linde for six he was caught behind off the next ball.
Bopara responded by taking 19 from Grant Stewart’s 15th over and he reached three figures with an elegant cover drive off Hogan for two in the 19th. Hogan had Fynn Hudson-Prentice lbw for 16 and Bopara finally went for 108, perhaps unluckily, when he hit a waist-high full toss from Matt Quinn to Alex Blake.
Kent knew they’d have to eclipse their previous highest run chase of 207 to win a T20 match but just three came from the first over and Tawanda Muyeye then played on to Ari Karvelas and was bowled for one.
Blake went in at three for his first appearance of the season and immediately went on the charge. He hit the first ball of Tymal Mills’ fourth over for four and dumped the next into the Sainsbury’s next to the ground for six, but at this point the umpires decided the rain had become too heavy and when they returned Kent needed 98 from 40 balls.
Daniel Bell-Drummond, having scored 480 in the previous week, had to retire hurt on seven and although Sam Billings was dropped by Clark off his first ball, before the over was out Blake holed out to Shadab for a 12-ball 30 and he was caught by Burgess.
Linde hit 12 from three before he was run out chasing a second but Billings and Cox just about kept Kent in it. The former was run out chasing a non-existent single and after Mills went for just six in the 19th, Kent needed 26 from NathanMcAndrew’s final over. They could only manage 14 but results elsewhere mean they can still qualify if they win at Taunton on Sunday.