Sussex see off Kent
Sussex Sharks ended a run of five successive defeats in the South Group of the NatWest T20 Blast with a comfortable 35-run victory over Kent Spitfires at Canterbury.
Luke Wright batted through the Sussex innings to make 85 from 61 deliveries in a total of 149 for eight and Kent were never in the hunt, losing wickets regularly as they were bowled out for 114 in the penultimate over of their reply.
Batsmen on both sides found timing their shots tough on a painfully slow pitch so Wright's knock proved especially valuable.
The 29-year-old passed 4,000 runs in T20 cricket when he reached seven and he went to his 25th career T20 half-century with a six off left-arm seamer Adam Ball.
But even Wright was subdued by the surface, hitting just seven boundaries and another six, off Mitch Claydon, before he holed out to deep extra cover off the last ball of the innings.
Wright shared a stand of 71 for the second wicket with competition debutant Harry Finch (22) but Sussex's innings lost momentum when Rory Hamilton-Brown fell at the start of the 15th over as five wickets fell for 20 runs in 26 balls.
Bowlers who could take the pace off the ball prospered with James Tredwell taking two for 20 against the county he joined on loan to play Championship cricket for a month earlier this week.
The visitors needed early wickets to strengthen their position and they got a spectacular start when left-armer Lewis Hatchett, playing only his fourth T20 game, claimed his first wicket in the format by ripping out Kent skipper Rob Key's middle stump from an inside edge with the second ball of the game.
Sam Northeast (18) fell in identical fashion in Hatchett's next over, then Hamilton-Brown pulled off a sensational one-handed catch to remove Alex Blake, diving full length to his right to brilliantly intercept a well-struck cut shot.
Sam Billings got Kent going with two straight-drive fours and when he and Daniel Bell-Drummond added 31 for the fourth wicket there was some hope for their side.
But medium-pacer Steffan Piolet and leg-spinner Will Beer strangled the life out of Kent's middle order, taking five for 39 between them in their combined eight overs.
Piolet picked up three for 14, including Kent's last hope Darren Stevens who gave the bowler a simple return catch, while Beer trapped top scorer Billings on the back leg for 23 as he took two for 25. He should have had a third wicket but Yasir Arafat inexplicably put down Adam Ball at extra cover when he offered the simplest of catches.
Ball gave Kent some respectability by helping number 11 David Griffiths add 27 runs - the second highest stand of the innings - for the last wicket before he lost his middle stump to Arafat.
Wright believes the victory can give Sussex a much-needed boost for the second half of their campaign.
"It's been a while since we won but T20 is a competition where you can get momentum quickly and hopefully this will give us that," he said.
"It was a hard wicket to bat on because the ball wasn't coming on at all so I was pleased to bat through and give us something we felt we could defend.
"We then saw that unbelievable catch by Rory and something like that lifts the side and we won comfortably in the end. We were desperate to win tonight and it was a great performance, especially without some of our key players."
Tredwell, who was playing for Sussex on Thursday, felt Wright's innings made the difference.
He said: "He played really well and got them to a total which we felt was probably 10 runs over par. It was a very difficult wicket to chase on and when we lost those early wickets it got very tough for us.
"It's disappointing because we wanted to get another win but Sussex deserved their victory."