Essex v Kent, Friends Life t20, Chelmsford July 15, 2011

Stevens powers Kent to quarter-finals

Kent 183 for 3 beat Essex 168 for 9 by 15 runs

Kent booked their place in the quarter-finals of the Friends Life t20 with a 15-run win over Essex in front of a packed house at Chelmsford. Allrounder Darren Stevens was Man of the Match after starring with both bat and ball, striking a brutal 41 and following that up with four cheap wickets to derail Essex's middle order, but the night was not without controversy.

Stevens entered the fray in the 13th over after the departure of Azhar Mahmood with Kent well-placed at 95 for 2, but didn't get off the mark until the seventh ball he faced and had just 5 to his name when he uppercut Ravi Bopara to third man, where Scott Styris creaked in from the rope impressively quickly and showed he still retained the class from his international days with what appeared to be a diving catch, scooping the ball into his fingers millimetres from the turf.

The umpires thought that the catch warranted a second look, however, and Styris reacted angrily when Stevens was eventually given not out. Essex have suffered disciplinary breaches more than once this season, and though captain James Foster managed to keep his cool Styris, who had claimed the catch as clean, trotted in for an extended chat with the umpires at the end of the over before being gently ushered away by team-mate Tim Southee.

Kent had initially struggled to force the pace on a sluggish pitch that didn't aid strokeplay, with Essex taking pace off the ball, but Stevens made full use of the reprieve to dominate the bowlers. He mowed Ryan ten Doeschate out of the ground and into the River Can, requiring a change of ball, but the harder, newer ball came on more easily to the bat and Stevens immediately thrashed another six, over long-off.

Joe Denly, who chugged along at more or less a run a ball in the first half of the innings but accelerated as he passed fifty, departed soon after, swiping ten Doeschate to Tim Phillips, running in from deep midwicket. Essex might have had a second wicket in the same over when Stevens toe-ended a hoick at ten Doeschate, the ball looping agonisingly over the bowler, who sprinted back and got a hand to it but couldn't complete the catch.

Essex's death bowlers did all that was asked of them but the luck was with Kent, as pinpoint yorkers were repeatedly inside-edged and squeezed down to the short boundary at fine leg. There were some good shots too, with van Jaarsveld peppering the leg side and Stevens going past 2,000 runs in domestic Twenty20s with a paddle to fine leg from the last ball of the innings as Kent reached 183 for 3 after 32 runs had come from the last 12 balls.

If anyone was going to find swing in the placid conditions, it was going to be Charl Langeveldt, who opened with a slip in place and curved several deliveries past the outside edge of Mark Pettini's bat in the first over. Mahmood also found some help with the new ball and slipped an inswinger under Pettini's bat to rattle the stumps with the score at 9.

Owais Shah repeated Stevens' earlier feat with the shot of the match, an elegant checked-drive that sailed out of the ground and required another change of ball to kick-start Essex's chase and by the third over of the innings, the movement through the air had vanished

Essex reached had reached 48 for 1 at the end of the field restrictions, but the introduction of Stevens in the seventh over turned the match as Adam Wheater ran past his second delivery - a slow cutter - and was easily stumped for 27. The required rate had crept above 10 an over when Shah lifted his second six over midwicket off Stevens, who barely touched 70 miles an hour all evening, in the ninth over but Stevens soon got his own back, disturbing Shah's stumps after the batsman had stepped to leg to give himself some room

Stevens struck for the third time in the 11th over as Bopara drove too early at a slow offcutter and popped back an easy return catch. Essex had slipped to 77 for 4 and the rate was fast climbing towards two runs a ball with James Tredwell also finding considerable grip and turn off the spongy surface

Stevens had made canny use of the slower ball in his first three overs, but it was a quicker one that brought him his fourth wicket as he snaked one in between ten Doeschate's bat and pad to leave Essex tottering at 87 for 5.

As had been the case at The Oval on Thursday night, Wahab Riaz was far more effective at the death than he had been at the top of the innings, whipping the ball in at a slippery pace and targeting the blockhole. He pegged back Foster's middle stump with a dipping full toss after he had scratched around for boundary-free 12, and Essex's hopes were rapidly fading at 120 for 6 in the 17th over.

Kent, perhaps feeling a little too assured of victory, slipped dangerously in the closing overs, both Langeveldt and Riaz no-balling and repeated lapses in the field keeping Essex in the hunt as Graham Napier raced to 26 with five boundaries before he picked out Alex Blake on the midwicket boundary. Styris enlivened the Essex massive with a towering six off Mahmood in the final over, but there were simply too many needed, and the result was sealed when he lifted a slower ball to long-off.

"I've got to be careful [what I say], with recent histories," Foster said after the match. "But [Stevens] went on to play a crucial knock and turned out to be a match-winner. It's frustrating, but you never know, someone else could have come in and scored runs. I don't blame Steve-o, the umpires told him to hold fire and stay there until they'd had a look. [Umpiring] is a tricky job, I don't know how many of us guys will go into it after our careers because it's very difficult."

"I turned for the second run, Ravi was in my line [of sight] so I asked the umpires if it carried or not, and they went to check it," explained Stevens.

Kent will now face Leicestershire at Grace Road in the quarter-finals of the competition.

Liam Brickhill is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on July 16, 2011, 13:23 GMT

    If Stevo had played for Surrey/Lancshire/Durham etc he would have been in the 20/20 side a long time ago. It's not how good you are, it's who you play for unfortunately.

  • Dummy4 on July 16, 2011, 11:38 GMT

    If Stevo had played for Surrey/Lancshire/Durham etc he would have been in the 20/20 side a long time ago. It's not how good you are, it's who you play for unfortunately.

  • Stark on July 16, 2011, 10:07 GMT

    Stevens was out because you could clearly see styris had his fingers underneath the ball but the third ump thought otherwise.

    And in the end his hitting made all the difference!

  • Dummy4 on July 16, 2011, 9:44 GMT

    He was perfectly entitled to ask the question but how the third umpire came to the conclusion he did I will never know it certainly looked clean to me.

  • Dummy4 on July 16, 2011, 8:32 GMT

    It was clearly a catch - and a great one at that - by Styris and a surprise to me (a Kent fan) that it was overruled. For all that Kent (despite fielding lapses) were just the better side mainly because Essex didn't use their batting resources properly - Napier should have come in much earlier - had they done so they would have won. So Leicester away will be a challenge, but I suspect Kent will be in another Finals Day. Go Spitfires!

  • Dummy4 on July 16, 2011, 0:45 GMT

    How that was not a clean catch i do not know...still essex should have chased 180with ease against that bowling lineup but oh well

  • Finn on July 15, 2011, 22:32 GMT

    Stevens is a very useful one-day allrounder, but I suppose he's been a bit unlucky as we've had Colly in the team and he is a very similar player. Still he regularly performs for Kent

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