Billings century steers Kent to victory


An impressive century from Sam Billings helped Kent Spitfires to a four-wicket win over Somerset with four balls to spare, in a Vitality Blast thriller at Canterbury.

The visitors had Kent reeling on 37 for four in the fifth over but they were rescued by Billings, who hit a career best 106 from 66 balls, with 14 fours and two sixes.

The Spitfires’ skipper fell in the 19th over, but with Kent needing just six from the last six balls, Joey Evison hit the winning runs to complete the comeback.

Earlier Will Smeed blasted 68 from 30 balls as Somerset posted 197 for six, while Tom Kohler-Cadmore was the next highest scorer with 42.

Having shipped 95 in eight overs for the opening wicket, Kent reined the visitors in slightly as Matt Parkinson took two for 36 and Zak Crawley took four catches, equalling Kent’s Blast record.

Somerset were asked to bat and Smeed rode his luck at times, but he creamed Joey Evison for 18 in the eighth over, only to hit the final delivery to Tawanda Muyeye on the boundary.

Tom Banton went three balls later for 26, when Marcus O’Riordan saw him charge down the wicket and had him stumped off a wide. Parkinson then got Tom Abell for 12 when Crawley covered 40 yards to reel him in at deep midwicket.

Sean Dickson made 26 from 18 before he skyed Parkinson to Crawley, who then took his third catch when Kohler-Cadmore miscued a full toss from Beyers Swanepoel.

Lewis Gregory went for 12 when he hit Bartlett’s penultimate ball of the innings to Crawley on the cow corner boundary, but Crawley then hit the first ball of the Kent reply, from Overton, straight to Roelof van der Merwe.

Overton then bowled Daniel Bell-Drummond for three and took a brilliant diving catch off Sonny Baker to remove Muyeye for 15. It was a maiden Blast wicket for the young Somerset seamer on his debut in the competition.

O’Riordan then went for 14, when he hit Jake Ball straight to Smeed at fly slip.

Billings and Denly dragged Kent back into it with a stand of 109, before the latter went for 32 when he tried to ramp Ball and was caught by Baker.

The 18th over proved pivotal. Billings hit Gregory through cover to reach his century. Evison then hit successive fours to leave Kent needing just 10 from the last two.

When Billings was caught by Dickson on the boundary off Ben Green, Kent still needed six off the last over. However, Evison cut van der Merwe’s first ball for four and scrambled two off the next ball to complete what at one stage had seemed like an unlikely victory.

Following the match, Somerset Bowling & Assistant Coach, Steve Kirby said: “We’ve just been Sam Billings-ed, haven’t we? I mean it was an incredible innings. He must take a huge amount of credit. I thought we bowled brilliantly up front and we were able to get four wickets in the powerplay, but that partnership with Joe Denly hurt us big time.

“It’s not been our best bowling performance to be completely honest. We know we’re better than that and I thought they bowled really well towards the end where they closed us down towards the long side. These are the things you have to learn and we will. We’re a resilient group, there’s some talent up there. It’s the kick up the backside we needed but you have to take your hat off to an incredible innings and we just have to get better.

“I think we chose the right bowlers on that particular surface. There wasn’t a huge amount of grip, there was a long side and a short side and that came into the equation of whether we played Jack (Leach) or not, but he’ll get his opportunity.

“I think we batted absolutely brilliantly. The way Smeed and Bants put that pressure on at the start was impressive but I would have liked to have got a few more. They bowled well, we didn’t and we got Sam Billingsed and we have to take our hat off.”