Prior underpins Sussex win
Wicketkeeper-batsman Matt Prior blasted a match-winning 89 off 59 balls to steer Sussex to a 15-run Friends Life t20 win over South Group rivals Kent in Canterbury.
The Sharks’ win, masterminded by Prior’s knock of nine fours and a brace of sixes, severely dented the sixth-placed Spitfires’ hopes of reaching the quarter-finals while bolstering third-placed Sussex’s chances of qualifying for the knockout stages.
It also ensured group leaders Hampshire progressed, despite losing to Surrey this evening.
Prior featured in a stand worth 47 with Ed Joyce and then 69 in 8.1 overs with Ben Brown after visiting captain Michael Yardy elected to bat first in front of a St Lawrence crowd of 3,500.
The hard-hitting Prior might have gone on 34 and 61 after miscuing on-drives against Darren Stevens, yet both times the fielder failed to make the catch after losing the flight of the ball in the setting sun.
Other than Brown, who made 20, no-one gave Prior the support he deserved and wickets continued to tumble at the other end with Wahab Riaz bagging 3-22, which included the scalp of Lou Vincent to a stunning catch one-handed and high to his right by former England wicketkeeper, Geraint Jones.
Charl Langeveldt chipped in with 2-32, including Prior’s wicket to a miscued catch at backward point by home skipper Rob Key, and Kent went into the interval seemingly delighted to have restricted the Sharks to 159 for six.
Chasing eight an over for victory, Kent lost Joe Denly in the second over leg before after he missed an attempted reverse-sweep against off-spinner Ollie Rayner.
Key heaved across the line of a good length ball from Umar Gul to have his middle stump pegged back and Azhar Mahmood dawdled a single to backward square-leg only to be run out by Gul’s direct hit.
With rain starting to fall, Kent’s mood darkened when Sam Northeast chipped tamely to mid-on and Alex Blake haplessly steered a simple catch to backward point.
The Spitfires’ victory hopes now lay squarely on the shoulders of experienced seventh-wicket partners Stevens and Jones.
Stevens flailed his way to a 36-ball fifty with four fours and two sixes, but Jones sliced a drive against Gul to Brown at deep cover.
In his next over Gul yorked Riaz to finish with 3-26, and rookie Sam Billings spooned a leading edge catch to cover off Chris Nash leaving Stevens, who finished 65 not out, and James Tredwell needing to score 30 off the remaining two overs - a task that proved well beyond them.