Essex Eagles ground Kent Spitfires in Natwest T20 Blast

PUBLISHED: 22:00 01 July 2016 | UPDATED: 22:00 01 July 2016

Ravi Bopara makes a run for Essex Eagles (pic: Gavin Ellis/TGSPHOTO)

Ravi Bopara makes a run for Essex Eagles (pic: Gavin Ellis/TGSPHOTO)

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Bopara, Walter shine with bat and ball

Paul Walter celebrates taking a wicket for Hornchurch (pic: Gavin Ellis/TGSPHOTO)Paul Walter celebrates taking a wicket for Hornchurch (pic: Gavin Ellis/TGSPHOTO)

Unbeaten half-centuries from captain Ravi Bopara and Ashar Zaidi, in an entertaining unbroken century stand, set Essex Eagles up for a 50-run Natwest T20 Blast success over Kent at Chelmsford.

Bopara (81) and Zaidi (54) led the hosts to a challenging 204-3, before Hornchurch all-rounder Paul Walter claimed his first wicket for the county to dismiss Joe Denly with the first ball of Kent’s reply.

Graham Napier struck in successive overs to leave the visitors with a mountain to climb and Walter (3-26) returned to pick up two more wickets late in the innings to help seal victory.

Essex did not get off to the best of starts as Jesse Ryder edged the third ball of the innings from Kagiso Rabada to Sam Billings, but Kishen Velani put on 43 with Tom Westley before a mix-up saw the Wanstead youngster run out for 19.

Bopara smashed James Tredwell for a six, before the spinner held on to a return catch to dismiss Westley for 33 as the hosts reached halfway on 75-3.

Zaidi cleared the rope as Essex enjoyed a good 12th over, then saw Bopara flick Fabian Cowdrey over square leg for another maximum as the total moved to 103-3 after 13.

Zaidi clubbed Tredwell over long-on as he almost caught up with Bopara, before the skipper hit Ivan Thomas for a straight six and then glanced a four to fine leg.

Bopara brought up his half-century from just 32 balls as Essex moved to 155-3 off 17, then Zaidi hit successive boundaries to move within five runs of his own fifty.

And the century partnership came up when Bopara drove Rabada for six and then added a four from the very next ball.

Zaidi had to wait until the last over to reach his half-century, from 33 deliveries, with a six off Mitchell Claydon’s full toss and cleared the rope again to finish unbeaten on 54 as Eagles closed on 204-3, after Bopara hit the final ball over long on to finish on 81 not out.

And Walter removed the dangerous Joe Denly with the first ball of Kent’s reply, clean bowling the England international and conceding only five runs in the first over.

Tom Latham hit leg-spinner Dan Lawrence for two sixes in the space of three balls as Kent moved to 36-1 from four overs, then Sam Northeast hit Matt Quinn for a four and a six as the visitors took 13 from the fifth over.

But Graham Napier struck with his first ball to dismiss Northeast and complete a delayed hat-trick, having taken two wickets with the last two balls against Surrey.

And Bopara bowled a tight over as the hosts looked to apply pressure, with Latham then skying Napier to Ryder to leave the Spitfires 65-3 after eight overs.

A diving Velani went close to a stunning catch on the square leg boundary, as the ball went for six, but Ryder then produced a superb piece of fielding to run out Billings and Ryan ten Doeschate bowled a rare maiden as Kent reached the midway point of their reply on 78-4.

Left-armer Walter was brought back into the attack to bowl his second over of the night and conceded just four runs to keep Essex well on top.

And although Darren Stevens hit ten Doeschate into the top tier of the stand for a six, he was run out by Bopara when attempting a quick single soon after to leave Kent up against it at 98-5.

Alex Blake also managed to clear the rope, but the required run rate was up at 15 an over and time was running out for Kent.

And another tight over from Walter, which yielded just six runs after Blake hit the first delivery for four, left the visitors 120-5 with five overs remaining.

Blake hit Napier for his second six, but Bopara conceded just five runs and another attempted six off Quinn picked out ten Doeschate at long-off for a superb catch.

Rabada edged his second ball from Quinn to James Foster to make it 138-7. before Walter was hit for a four and a six by Cowdrey, but then took a sharp caught and bowled chance to get rid of him and saw Tredwell pick out Quinn at third man for his third scalp of the night.

Quinn (2-22) conceded just five runs from the last over as Essex wrapped up a convincing victory ahead of the county championship match between the two sides on Sunday.

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