Bell-Drummond hits unbeaten 120 to help Kent to Royal London One-Day Cup victory over Essex
Daniel Bell-Drummond hit an unbeaten 120 to help steer Kent to Royal London One-Day Cup victory as Spitfires downed the Essex Eagles by six wickets in Beckenham.
Man-of-the-match Bell-Drummond followed a canny bowling spell of two for 36 with his sixth List A hundred from 107 balls and with 12 fours as Kent romped to their second successive south group success.
Having seen Essex make a watchful start to their innings total of 271 for nine, Kent’s openers Bell-Drummond and Zak Crawley set off with intent to post 61 during the batting powerplay.
The main aggressor, Bell-Drummond, reached 50 from 39 balls and with 10 fours as the Spitfire pair reached their century stand in the 16th over.
Essex turned to spin at both ends but the Kent openers ploughed on regardless as Crawley’s 50 came up off 57 balls with six fours as the pair overtook 180, Kent’s previous best List A opening stand against Essex set by Mark Benson and Trevor Ward at Canterbury in 1988.
After a stand of 188 Crawley fell six shy of his hundred, leg before when working across one from Ravi Bopara, then Matt Renshaw (8) followed in similar fashion with the home score on 202.
Heino Kuhn (20) was bowled by Matt Coles, the former Kent all-rounder, who then had Adam Rouse (6) caught at extra cover, leaving Bell-Drummond and Alex Blake to polish the job off with 20 balls to spare.
Batting first on a bitterly cold day, Essex were forced to adjust their initial aspirations by a slightly two-paced pitch that assisted both spin and seam bowling early on.
Kent made their first breakthrough in the third over when Varun Chopra tossed away his own wicket. Walking outside off to aim a wristy flick through mid-wicket, he skied a catch off Harry Podmore to cover point.
Former England skipper Alastair Cook and Tom Westley regrouped with a watchful second-wicket stand worth 97. Westley sprinted to a 51-ball 50 - his fourth of the tournament, with six fours and a six - while Cook played within himself to contribute only 18 during his first hour at the crease.
Cook upped his tempo with a flurry of fours off Fred Klaassen and Renshaw leading to the introduction of Bell-Drummond at the City End, who struck with his third ball by trapping Westley leg before for 58 as the right-hander worked across a straight one.
The Eagles reached 125 for two by the mid-point as Cook marched to a 60-ball half-century with five fours. But three runs on Cook’s checked drive to a Podmore slower ball sailed to mid-off where Renshaw took an athletic, overhead catch on the run to spark a collapse of four wickets in 41 balls.
Dan Lawrence pulled a Matt Milnes bouncer low to Crawley at mid-wicket. Then, in the next over, Ravi Bopara’s top-edged sweep against Imran Qayyum was easily gathered at short fine-leg.
Qayyum removed Rishi Patel to finish with two for 37 when Renshaw held another steepler low down at long-on and Robbie White’s miscued pull sailed to backward square-leg to give Bell-Drummond his second scalp.
Simon Harmer was caught behind off a top-edged pull but Matt Coles scored a useful 34 before holing out to cow corer to give Milnes somewhat flattering figures of three for 60 as Essex successfully batted out their overs.
Essex coach Anthony McGrath said: “It’s very frustrating because we’re repeating the same mistakes in games. We’re doing half a job. Batters are getting in bout not going on to make a big score, then with the ball, we’ll string some good overs together only to then leak big runs to bad deliveries.
“We’re not doing the basics well enough and we’re making bad decisions at critical times. Batting was tough early on, I thought Kent bowled well, but for the first 20 overs we did well.
“If you look at the stats in this competition it’s overs 30 to 40 where we’ve struggled and it was the same here today. We have been losing wickets in clumps during that period and today we were 40-odd for four in that sector. That’s where the game was lost because 270 was always short.”
Kent’s century-maker Bell-Drummond said: “The main thing for us was to bowl first and, because we’ve got a few out with injury, it was important to stick them in and get them to set us a target.
“It was a great toss to win because the pitch was a bit sticky at the start and, having already bowled on it, I knew it was going to be a lot flatter when we batted.
“I bowled a lot when I was younger but I’m fairly new to it professionally. I’m enjoying it, but taking it game by game. When all the lads are fit again I’ll probably be eighth-change!
“It’s a funny game, but I felt we had the run chase under control right from the off. Zak and myself paced the innings nicely and although we lost three quick wickets near the end, it felt like we were always ahead of the game.”
Daniel Bell-Drummond, Zak Crawley, Matthew Renshaw, Heino Kuhn(c), Alex Blake, Ollie Robinson, Adam Rouse(wk), Harry Podmore
Matthew Milnes, Imran Qayyum , Fredrick Klaassen
Varun Chopra, Alastair Cook, Tom Westley , Dan Lawrence, Ravi Bopara, Simon Harmer(c), Rishi Patel, Robbie White(wk), Matt Coles
Jamie Porter, Aaron Beard
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