Northeast, Billings blast Kent to win
Kent 383 for 7 (Billings 135*, Northeast 132) beat Somerset 371 for 8 (Compton 56, Barrow 54, Groenewald 52*, Thomas 49*) by 2 runs
An extraordinary 135 not out off just 58 balls from Sam Billings and a century from Sam Northeast led Kent to a nail-biting Royal London Cup win over Somerset at Taunton in a match featuring 754 runs.
Billings blasted a 46-ball hundred, including 12 fours and four sixes, while Northeast hit 132 at a run a ball as the visitors ran up 383 for 7 after losing the toss. Daniel Bell-Drummond contributed 61 as the Somerset attack was put to the sword.
A brief shower meant a revised target for the hosts, who were set 374 in 48 overs. That was a daunting target but they failed by just two runs, with half-centuries from Nick Compton and Alex Barrow before an unbroken stand of 101 between Tim Groenewald and Alfonso Thomas.
The pair got the target down to six off the last three balls but Mitch Claydon held his nerve and conceded only two singles and a leg bye as Kent held on for a thrilling victory.
The visitors were given a great start with an opening stand of 117 between Bell-Drummond and Northeast, which was ended in the 20th over by left-arm spinner Jack Leach, who had Bell-Drummond stumped by Barrow down the leg side having faced 60 balls and hit nine fours.
The visitors then stumbled to 166 for 5, Leach claiming two more wickets, before Billings joined Northeast in an exhilarating stand of 157 in just 13 overs. Groenewald went for 83 off eight overs and all the bowlers suffered as both batsmen peppered the boundary in the batting Powerplay and made use of the fast outfield.
Northeast reached his hundred off 115 balls with eight fours and a six, but was made to look a positive slouch by wicketkeeper Billings. The scoreboard read 323 for 6 in the 46th over by the time they were parted, Northeast falling to Thomas, having extended his boundary count with a further six fours.
A couple more wickets fell, but Billings was still there at the end, having struck 17 fours and five sixes in an innings he will long remember.
Somerset looked to be facing an impossible task, even when their target was slightly reduced. Marcus Trescothick was dismissed in the opening over of their reply and, although Compton and Peter Trego took the score to 88, the hosts were already behind the required rate.
It stayed that way despite the efforts of Barrow, Lewis Gregory and Craig Overton and it was 268 for 8 when Barrow was out, having faced 47 balls and hit eight fours. But Groenewald and Thomas refused to give up hope, sharing 14 fours in their backs-to-the-wall stand, which took the game down to the wire.
Groenewald also hit two sixes, but in the end it proved to be not enough. Only Darren Stevens escape the carnage, conceding only 41 runs from his nine overs.
"That was one of the best games of cricket that I have ever played in," Billings said. "It was unbelievable stuff. I probably wouldn't be saying that if Somerset had taken four off the last ball, but it just kept on ebbing and flowing right until the end. I think I will sleep well tonight. I had one of those days where you think you can hit every ball for six and thankfully for me it came off. I have come into a good bit of form and I just kept on going with it and it was a lot of fun.''