Smith burst boosts Essex
Medium-pacer Greg Smith claimed five wickets in the space of 11 balls as Essex collected their first Friends Life t20 win of the campaign with a thrilling three-run victory over Kent at Chelmsford.
Essex skipper James Foster struck four sixes and two fours in a 27-ball 51, which helped the hosts recover from a slow start to reach 158 for six.
However, his worthy effort was then overshadowed by Smith, who undermined Kent’s run-chase with career-best figures of 5-17.
After conceding nine in his first over, the former Derbyshire all-rounder accounted for dangerman Sam Billings, who top-scored with 59, and Brendan Nash with successive deliveries before bowling Geraint Jones four balls later.
Sam Northeast and Matt Coles followed in Smith’s next over and Kent ultimately fell marginally short even though their opponents were handed a six-run penalty for a slow over-rate.
A four from the final delivery would have won the game for Kent, but last man Mark Davies was bowled by Graham Napier.
Coles had earlier conceded 24 in the final over of Essex’s innings as, following a maximum from Adam Wheater, Foster cleared the ropes on two occasions before being bowled.
That onslaught helped Essex collect 53 from the final four overs, with Coles conceding 46 from his full allocation.
James Franklin was Essex's other main contributor; he struck six fours en route to 39 from 41 deliveries.
Franklin was bowled by Adam Ball after sharing in a stand of 53 in eight overs for the second wicket with Napier, who departed in the same over as the New Zealander when going for a third run having made 20.
Kent's hopes of launching their reply on a solid foundation were ruined by David Masters, playing against his former county.
In his third over, he bowled Rob Key for five and had Azhar Mahmood lbw next ball.
That left the visitors on the back foot at 23 for two and although they reached the halfway stage without further loss, they had progressed to only 61.
Billings, whose 55-ball innings contained four fours and two sixes, and Nash brought about an acceleration with a fourth-wicket stand of 54 in seven overs but Smith then took centre stage.
Two sixes from Northeast kept Kent in the hunt, but it was to be Essex who triumphed.