10:42 PM IST
ECB Reporters Network
Kent 209 for 5 (Bell-Drummond 72) tied with Middlesex 209 for 4 (Eskinazi 84, Gubbins 53)
An extraordinary final over from Tom Helm enabled Middlesex to salvage a tie as the points were shared in their thrilling Vitality Blast tie against Kent.
Chasing 210, the Spitfires seemed on course for their first victory of the tournament after captain Daniel Bell-Drummond blazed 72 from 32 balls, sharing a blistering opening stand of 89 in just under seven overs with Zak Crawley.
But Helm – who had looked ragged after conceding 40 and a string of wides from his first three overs – restricted Kent to just five runs at the death, bowling Grant Stewart before Jack Leaning scampered a bye from the last ball to level the scores at 209 for 5.
Earlier, Middlesex’s Stevie Eskinazi had registered his best T20 score, hitting 84 from 52 balls and adding 111 for the third wicket with Nick Gubbins (53 from 33) as the home side, who were put in to bat, posted 209 for 4.
Max Holden – having batted through the full 20 overs in compiling his maiden Blast century at Chelmsford two days earlier – lasted only four balls this time, scoring seven before Fred Klaassen took out his off stump.
Martin Andersson, who helped Eskinazi to make steady progress in the Powerplay, looked strong off the back foot, punching Matt Milnes to the boundary twice in his 24 from 17 balls.
Although Andersson departed lbw to Calum Haggett’s first delivery, the seamer struggled for consistency as Gubbins picked out gaps with precision and applied just enough power to beat the boundary fielders.
It wasn’t until the 13th over that Middlesex recorded their first maximum of the innings when Eskinazi paddled Haggett into the Mound Stand – later unveiling an identical shot off Klaassen.
The pair achieved Middlesex’s second-highest T20 partnership for any wicket against Kent, with Gubbins going on to complete his half-century before skying Klaassen into the hands of Crawley at long-on.
Jordan Cox’s superb direct hit from the cover boundary denied Eskinazi a tilt at his hundred as he returned for a second run, but there was no danger of Middlesex’s momentum stalling during the last two overs.
John Simpson slammed his first delivery for six, while some clinical hitting by Dan Lincoln, who thrashed an unbeaten 24 from just nine balls, lifted the home side above the 200 mark.
However, Crawley and Bell-Drummond – who had hammered an unbeaten quickfire stand of 52 in Thursday’s aborted game against Hampshire – immediately savaged Middlesex’s bowlers for 85 during the Powerplay.
Crawley blazed successive sixes off Miguel Cummins and glanced the former West Indies seamer for four to raise the 50 from just 20 deliveries, while Bell-Drummond dispatched Harris for two sixes and legspinner Nathan Sowter disappeared for 17 in his first over.
Sowter finally broke the partnership when he returned after the Powerplay, persuading Crawley (31 from 19) to chip to Holden at deep midwicket, but the skipper maintained the pace, smiting Steven Finn back over his head for three fours.
Bell-Drummond finally perished in the 10th over attempting a fourth, with substitute fielder Joe Cracknell juggling a catch in the deep, although Alex Blake seemed to keep the Spitfires on track.
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Good work by Andersson, stretching to bring down Blake’s drive just inside the rope, gave Middlesex hope and, when Cox holed out off Finn, the visitors still required 26 from 16 balls.
However, Leaning clipped James Harris for six and Kent looked clear favourites going into the final over – but Helm followed the wicket of Stewart with three dot balls to deny them victory.
“To take a point away from this, at the position we were in after 15 overs of their innings, we’d have taken it,” Finn said. “But on the flip side, had we done better in those first 15, we could have put that game to bed.
“I feel it’s an opportunity missed after the way we batted. We were very happy with the momentum we had all the way through that innings – the way Eskinazi and Gubbins, then Lincoln and Simpson at the end, ran them ragged to get to a total that should have been too many for them.
“We know with Tom Helm being the death bowler and with the skills he has, even if we have a single-figure score to defend in that last over, we’re confident of doing that.”
“We’re disappointed and it’s a tough one to take,” Bell-Drummond said. “It was a crazy game and, with my captain’s head on, there were so many positives – and a lot to work on. Myself and Zak started off nicely – if one of us could have been there at the end we would have won. I feel we still should have won but hard luck to the guys at the crease.
“Helm, even though he struggled with his wides, actually bowled very well in between them and I think he showed his class in the last over.”
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