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Owais Shah clattered six sixes in a match-defining innings of 59 as Essex opened their Friends Life t20 win account with a 47-run success over Kent in Canterbury. Requiring 165 for victory at an asking rate of 8.25 an over, Kent crumbled for 117 with 15 balls of their innings still remaining to slip to their third South Group defeat in as many starts in front of a season’s-best crowd of 5,000.

Kent made the worst possible start when in-form Sam Northeast worked across the line to go leg before to Graham Napier’s first ball of the reply. With Shaun Tail and Napier bowling tightly and Kent’s Rob Key and Sam Billings struggling for timing, Spitfires could only muster 30 from their Powerplay. Kent suffered another blow two balls later when Greg Smith took a good low catch on the run at deep midwicket to send Billings packing and make it 31 for 2.

By the eighth over the St Lawrence ground announcer was already playing the theme from Mission Impossible, which was the cue for Darren Stevens to take a six and a brace of fours off an over from Ryan ten Doeschate. But, with his score on 19, Stevens bottom edged an attempted pull against Ravi Bopara onto his stumps then, having faced 30 balls for his 26, Key holed out to long-on and at 82 for 4 Kent were deep in trouble.

With the asking rate approaching 10 an over, Alex Blake perished at deep midwicket for 19, then Matt Coles inside edged a leg-side smear to be caught down the leg side by James Foster. Reece Topley, who bagged 3 for 19, bowled Ben Harmison off a bottom edge and, when Vernon Philander skied to long-off Kent’s outside chances went with him as Napier polished off the innings with 3 for 12.

Essex, having been asked to bat first, had 34 on the board in 4.1 overs through Smith and Hamish Rutherford before Kent broke through when Smith heaved across the line to lose leg stump to Philander. Rutherford and Eagles dangerman Napier took the total to 50 in the six Powerplay overs, but James Tredwell, who finished his four overs with 1 for 19, struck with his third delivery of the night by having Napier caught at long-on.

Rutherford followed for 29 in the following over, leg-before when sweeping against Adam Riley, though the Kiwi waved his hand at umpire Trevor Jesty as if to suggest the ball had brushed his glove. Essex reached 72 for 3 at the mid-point of their innings, but Kent enjoyed further success when Stevens had Bopara caught behind when attempting to steer one down to third man.

Shah posted the Eagles 100 in the 14th over with a six over midwicket off a Stevens full toss, then Mitch Claydon suffered similar treatment when Shah drove straight and clipped over square leg for successive sixes that completed his 33-ball half-century with one four and five maximums.

The fifth-wicket stand between Shah and Ten Doeschate (31) worth 74 in 7.3 overs ended when ten Doeschate in backing up for a single was run out by an under-arm shy by wicketkeeper Billings. Shah was yorked by Claydon for 59 in the final over, but with 164 on the board the Essex batsmen had good reason to be pleased with their night’s work.