MIDDLESEX WON BY 40 RUNS: MIDDLESEX 210-6; KENT SPITFIRES 170-7
Middlesex star Brendon McCullum became his county’s latest overseas batsman to put Kent to the sword after hitting an unbeaten 87 that helped down Kent Spitfires by 40 runs in a one-sided NatWest T20 Blast clash in Canterbury.
Following in the footsteps of Adam Gilchrist (2010) and Dan Christian (2014), who plundered T20 tons on Kentish soil in Middlesex colours, McCullum – the Kiwi short-form specialist – hit four fours and five sixes during a 57-ball stay that eased his side to a formidable 216 for six.
In his final innings of the summer for Middlesex, McCullum featured in a century opening stand with in-form Dawid Malan (60), the Middlesex captain, to set Spitfires an exacting asking rate of 10.55 an over for victory – a pursuit that proved well beyond Kent’s reach. Fresh from an unbeaten 50 against Somerset at a soggy Lord’s on
Thursday evening, Malan soon took a liking to a hard and pacey Canterbury pitch, lofting Matt Hunn’s third ball into the Frank Woolley Stand. In the ninth over Malan hoisted his third six over the long leg ropes off Darren Stevens to raise the Middlesex 100 but, in trying to square drive the next delivery, Malan was superbly caught one-handed by a leaping James Tredwell to go for 60 off 30 balls.
McCullum might have gone for 34 had Tredwell clung on to a stinging return catch off his own bowling, but the 34-year-old from Dunedin survived to take his side on to 112 by the innings mid-point. Tredwell made amends in the next over by snaffling a tumbling catch at backward point after Paul Stirling (12) backed away aiming to cut against Stevens.
Fabian Cowdrey’s direct hit from deep mid-wicket accounted for James Franklin (1), run out after McCullum had called countryman through for a risky second run and Kent’s fightback continued when Stevens pegged back James Fuller’s off stump. Without seemingly finding his top gear McCullum countered by moving to a 34-ball 50, but Stevens bagged another scalp when John Simpson (2) holed out to long-on to give Stevens figures of four for 31.
Having been spanked to most parts of the ground, Hunn enjoyed some consolation by having Nick Gubbins (11) caught off a skier at extra cover, but Kent’s woes continued in the 19th over when umpires Nick Cook and Russell Evans awarded six penalty runs for their slow over rate. McCullum posted his side’s 200 with his fifth maximum of the night but ran out of deliveries in his quest to reach three figures and finished 13 short of an eighth short-form century. Kent’s run chase started disastrously when openers Tom Latham and Joe Denly fell within 14 balls.
Latham edged the first ball of the reply from Toby Roland-Jones onto his off stump. Then, in his next over, Roland-Jones had Joe Denly (6) caught off a skier at mid-on. Under the lights and in front of the biggest Canterbury crowd of the summer, Kent captain Sam Northeast mowed a quick 41 before miscuing to short third man.
The required run-rate had risen above 13 at the mid-point of the Spitfires reply forcing Blake (3) into the extravagant, only for the left-hander to sky to long-on. With spin from both ends and pace off the ball, Kent started to struggle for boundaries but Cowdrey found the ropes against Stirling to post his 32-ball 50 and Kent’s 100 in the 14th over.
The hosts needed a further 85 from the final 30 deliveries but England international Sam Billings soon departed for seven, paddling to short fine leg. Top-scorer Cowdrey reached a career-best, but the right-hander drove to mid-off to go for 71 and Kent’s outside hopes of stealing a third south group win went with him