Essex Eagles claimed a nail-biting, last ball win against Kent Spitfires in their first home t20 fixture of the season last night in a game that ended in drama and confusion.
A tense match in which neither team gained control went right down to the final ball of the game with Kent needing four to win off Graham Napier's delivery.
With the number 11 Kent batsmen Mark Davies facing his first ball and needing to score a boundary, the pressure was on and Napier cleaned bowled him to the cheers of a relieved crowd at the Ford County Ground.
What was not clear to the crowd was an unfolding drama involving Essex being fined six runs for a slow over rate, which confused the scorers as the last over was about to take place. Some commentators thought that the Kent score should also have included a further two runs for Matt Coles, meaning they only had to score two runs off the last ball, but that was rendered irrelevant when Napier flattened Davies' stumps to give Essex victory in their second t20 game of the competition.
It was just the boost that Essex needed after a poor start to the 2012 season which had seen them win just two games out of 14 in all competitions up to the Kent game, with rain curtailing many Championship matches. With this win under their belt, Essex will be hoping to reignite their season, starting with their next t20 game, a trip to Lord's to take on Middlesex Panthers tonight.
Essex's innings was steady and mostly unspectacular until captain James Foster arrived at the crease in the 11th over and livened things up, nudging and cajoling runs at first and then striking out in the latter stages, hitting two fours and four sixes in his 51 off 27 balls. Up to then, it had been a rather subdued Essex performance with only New Zealand all-rounder James Franklin really asserting himself, scoring a smooth 39 off 41 balls.
But it was only in the last four overs that the Essex innings really took off, with Foster chalking up most of the 53 runs scored in that time, taking Essex to a decent total of 158 for six.
The Kent reply looked in good shape until Essex quick David Masters struck, removing both Rob Key and Azhar Mahmood with the score on 23. Sam Billings kept the scoreboard ticking over for Kent but they'd made only 61 for 2 after 10 overs, prompting Billings and Brendon Nash to start hitting out and they game looked like it was swinging towards Kent.
Then Essex all-rounder Greg Smith stepped in to turn the game around in the 17th over, removing Billings and Nash with successive deliveries and taking another wicket in the same over to put Essex in the driving seat. With Kent needing more than 10 runs an over as the game reached its climax, Sam Northeast gave the visitors a sniff of victory with two big sixes before he became another victim of Smith who eventually took five wickets in the space of five balls.
A tense game became even tenser as Graham Napier prepared to bowl the last over and confusion surrounded the score. With Kent needing 17 off six balls it looked a tall order for the visiting side but a six from Adam Ball raised pulse rates at Fortress Chelmsford before Napier ran out James Tredwell and then bowled last man Mark Davies to secure a narrow win at the end of a gripping game.
Essex beat Kent by three runs. Man of the Match: Greg Smith
Essex's next home fixture is the t20 home game against Surrey Lions on Friday, June 22 at 7pm.