Yardy, Prior keep Sussex on top
Sussex 166 for 6 beat Kent 163 for 5 by four wickets
Title holders Sussex chalked up their third successive win of the Friends Provident t20 South Group by edging a tense local derby against Kent by four wickets and with only two balls remaining in Tunbridge Wells. Visiting skipper Michael Yardy pulled a slower-ball bouncer from Azhar Mahmood to the ropes at deep backward square to spark a pitch invasion from a near-6,000 crowd at the Royal Spa Town club ground.
Chasing Kent's workmanlike if unspectacular total of 163 for 5, Sussex made the best of starts through New Zealand's Brendon McCullum and Matt Prior, who raced to 55 inside eight overs before the Spitfires finally struck. McCullum, on 16 from 19 balls and with three fours, clipped one from James Tredwell high to deep midwicket where Joe Denly ran round from long-on to take the catch.
Denly and Tredwell, who bagged 2 for 32, combined again in near-identical fashion to account for Murray Goodwin (nine) then Prior, having hit seven fours and a six from 34 balls, missed out on his 50 by three runs when mistiming a drive against Darren Stevens to be snaffled at short midwicket.
Luke Wright misread one from wrist spinner Malinga Bandara to be bowled for 21 and with five overs remaining Sussex required a further 44 with six wickets in hand. Bandara also struck in his final over to finish with 2 for 34. Drawing Chris Nash down the pitch, he turned one through the gate to peg back off stump and send the right-hander packing for a useful 24 from 11 balls.
Joe Gatting (eight) fell in the penultimate over but, with only four needed from the final over, Yardy wrapped up a man-of-the-match display by hitting the winning blow to finish unbeaten on 36 from 23 balls.
After playing out a maiden from Robin Martin-Jenkins' first over of the game, Kent lost their first wicket in the seamer's second over, Denly bowled for five when he heaved across the line. Rob Key joined forces with Martin van Jaarsveld to add 47 for the second wicket inside six overs but then Key (23), in aiming to run a quicker delivery from Yardy down to third man for a single, missed the ball and dragged his back foot to be smartly stumped by Andrew Hodd.
Van Jaarsveld also chipped and chased his way to 23, never appearing comfortable on a two-paced pitch. He finally hoisted Chris Nash to long-on where England keeper Prior - playing as an outfielder, like New Zealand counterpart McCullum - ran around the boundary edge and knocked the ball up before taking the catch at the second attempt.
Kent formed a useful alliance between Geraint Jones (32) and in-form Stevens, who again top-scored for the hosts with an unbeaten 52 - having scored 197 here in last week's championship fixture against Nottinghamshire. The fourth-wicket pair doubled the score and had reached 137 when Jones (32), in attempting to pull a length ball from Yasir Arafat, found a top edge to be caught by the bowler off a skier.
Stevens and Azhar Mahmood maintained the momentum with a rash of late boundaries, Mahmood clattering three to the ropes in his 16 from eight balls while Stevens reached his half-century from the last ball of the innings with a back-foot carve through extra cover off Yasir Arafat for four. In all Stevens faced only 30 balls and hit two sixes to go with his four fours as Kent rattled along at 8.15 runs per over to set the Sharks a testing target.