Essex Eagles begin Vitality Blast with tense derby win at Kent
- Credit: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo
Essex claimed a four-wicket Vitality Blast victory over Kent with two balls to spare in a tense derby at Canterbury.
Paul Walter top-scored with an unbeaten 47 as the visitors closed on 188 for six in reply to Kent's 184 for four, hitting the winning runs with two balls remaining.
Will Buttleman was the Eagles' next highest scorer with 37, while Fred Klaassen took two for 35 and was the only bowler to take more than one wicket in the match.
Sam Billings was Kent's top scorer with 48 not out as Zak Crawley made 40, while Matt Critchley had Essex's best bowling figures with one for 16.
Kent won the toss in what was billed as "The Battle of The Bridge" and chose to bat, making one change from the side which lost to Somerset on Wednesday night, Matt Quinn coming in place of Grant Stewart.
Crawley was on just two when he was dropped by Critchley at the start of the second over and Kent raced to 60 without loss at the end of the powerplay.
Daniel Bell-Drummond produced a succession of elegant cuts but he was bowled by Aron Nijjar (1-26) for 31 and, when Crawley was then lbw to Simon Harmer for 40, the scoring rate slowed.
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Joe Denly was the third top-order batter to get out after making a start, when he swiped Daniel Sams for six but he hit the next delivery almost vertically and was caught and bowled for 35.
Jack Leaning made just two when he hit Harmer to Critchley, but the 17th over, bowled by Harman, went for 19 and some violent hitting by George Linde saw him finish on 23 not out from 11 balls.
It looked a competitive total, but Essex took 17 from Denly's opening over and Adam Rossington blasted 29 from 16 balls, until Klaassen made a mess of his stumps.
The visitors were 66 for one at the end of the powerplay, but lost Michael Pepper for six when he spooned Linde to Klaassen at point.
Buttleman then pulled Qais Ahmad to Crawley and Matt Milnes ripped out Critchley's middle stump after a quickfire 18.
Sams was reprieved after an excruciating drop by Quinn when he was on one, but he added just two more to his score when he floated Klaassen to Leaning and the run rate climbed above 10 for the first time.
With the noose tightening, Essex took 17 from the 16th over and 13 from the 17th, tilting the equation back in their favour.
Tom Westley was brilliantly run out for 15 by Billings at the start of the 18th, the skipper throwing down the stumps as he chased a single, but Harmer then struck successive fours off Quinn to leave the Eagles needing six from the final over.
Harmer, who finished on 21 not out from 11 balls, took five from the first three balls, leaving Walter to smear Milnes for four to clinch the win.
Essex head to Taunton to take on Somerset in their next match on Sunday (4pm).