Essex 190 for 2 (Westley 74*, Bopara 51*) beat Kent 157 (Napier 3-29) by 33 runs
On a night when one campaign would be reignited and another shelved, Essex trampled all over Kent in front of their own fans for a derby hammering that soured a truly exceptional night of revelry. It was standard English T20 fare: ale in the air, kids playing in the array of green nooks that Canterbury has to offer and unhindered sun cheering even the most straight-laced Kent fan lamenting a season in which a side that promised so much has delivered so little.
Before the match Ravi Bopara was not entirely sure what Essex needed for a quarter-final spot. Having called the toss correctly, he assumed winning every match might do it. Opting to bat, both he and Tom Westley notched their first half-centuries of the competition to post 190. A turn with the ball, removing Alex Blake and then running out James Tredwell with a direct hit, showed that Bopara was at least up to scratch with the short-term needs if not the bigger picture. He'll be pleased to know that they now sit in fourth, with their fate in their own hands.
With a plethora of English talent on show, Andy Flower was present to soak in an evening when the ground was bursting at the seams with a crowd that pushed the 6,000 capacity to its limit. There was not a seat nor a patch of grass spare on the bank. Standing space, too, had to be earned. The food village at the Nackington Road End was a sweaty mosh-pit of pad thai at the interval. Flower opted for the sedate order of the Sainsbury's next to the ground.
As it happens, he would have made all if not most of his notes of praise during Essex's innings, as Kent Spitfires' chase stuttered every few boundaries. Sam Northeast, with 994 Championship runs and, now, over 403 in the T20 Blast, was snipped after 12 balls at the crease, just as he was starting to threaten a thrilling star turn. The returning Lions fared no better: Daniel Bell-Drummond gifting David Masters a high return catch before Sam Billings, given a WWE-style fanfare when he strode to the crease, made a more sombre return walk after just two balls for Masters' second.
Westley shone brightest, coming in during the fifth over and batting right through to the end for 74 off 49 balls. It was typically Westley - a wrist-heavy affair that was more kiss-kiss than bang-bang. He took a particular liking to Darren Stevens, at times allowing deliveries to sit up, on a pitch that responded well to variety, to find gaps on both sides of the wicket.
The half-century came off 33 balls, by which point, in the 15th over, Bopara had just 12 from 17 balls. A post-fifty acceleration from Westley allowed his captain the chance to settle before thrashing 15 off the 20th over, bowled by David Griffiths. Bopara's own half-century saw him redress his stodgy start with 31 off the last 15 balls. Together, they put on 119.
Tonight also marked the return of Matt Coles. Since being made unavailable for selection after an indiscretion during the Championship game against Glamorgan in Cardiff last month, the rumour mill has been turning. It is familiar territory for Coles, who is Kent through and through but will find it harder to command the goodwill of a fan base starting to lose their patience with him.
News of Coles' return to the side had not reached those at the ground until the toss, many of whom had already sussed his presence, a spitting burly figure throwing down stumps with Kagiso Rabada in the warm-ups. Brought on after four overs, he conceded consecutive boundaries off his first two balls back but finished the over with the wicket of Nick Browne - caught well by Rabada at deep midwicket- before undoing Dan Lawrence with a change of pace.
A penny for Flower's thoughts: it was he who ejected Coles from a Lions tour in 2013, along with Ben Stokes, as his visit to the camp in Australia coincided with their drunken misdemeanours. Stokes has made his peace by becoming one of the game's most exciting allrounders as Coles battles on to find his.
He needs time to get back to where he wants to be - in cricket and in life. In so many ways, it is hard not to look at Coles and, even considering the self-inflicted nature of his misdemeanours, label him "unlucky". As one member of that 2013 Lions tour put it: "it's not that Colesy got drunk - it's that he got caught".