Blast ruins the Blast... Storm puts paid to Sussex hopes in Kent
Sussex's Vitality Blast T20 clash with Kent was abandoned 11.2 overs into the Spitfires' innings as the hottest day of the year ended in a crescendo of lightning, thunderstorms and a sudden deluge of rain over Canterbury.
It was the second time in a week that Kent, the early South Group leaders, had seen proceedings called off for inclement weather following last Friday’s abandonment against Surrey after the visitors had scored a mammoth 250 for six.
This time, Kent had fared much better in reaching 99 for two when the skies darkened and the heavens opened, leaving umpires Jeremy Lloyds and Chris Watts to take the players from the field for the sides to share a point apiece.
Sussex, who opted to bowl first after winning the toss and with threats of the thunderstorm to follow, conceded a boundary in each of their first three overs as Spitfires’ opener Joe Denly pounced upon anything over-pitched.
Daniel Bell-Drummond opened his boundary account with a square drive against pacy left-armer Tymal Mills making his season’s T20 debut for Sussex, who dropped short to allow Denly to plunder a brace of boundaries with 16 coming off the over.
Bell-Drummond followed suit in the next from Jofra Archer to raise Kent’s 50, then Denly pulled sublimely to clear the ropes for the first time on the night as 20 came off the over.
Rashid Khan, the teenage Afghanistan leg-spinner, bowled a tighter last over of the powerplay as the hosts reached 66 without loss after six overs.
Chris Jordan’s first delivery of the night sparked the loss of Kent’s first wicket, but the dismissal owed more to Rashid’s stunning catch that to Jordan’s skills. Bell-Drummond, in pulling a long-hop, saw Rashid initially misjudge the flight of the ball, however, the youngster stuck out his right hand to take a brilliant low, one-handed catch that made it 67 for one.
Denly straight drove Danny Briggs for a seventh boundary to raise his 33-ball 50 that included one six, and with the first flash of lightning in the distance Kent reached 91 for one at the midpoint point of their innings.
Three balls later, and with the wind whipping up, Denly charged down the pitch against Rashid to be stumped by Michael Burgess, in what transpired to be the last meaningful action of the evening.
At 7.45pm and after 11.2 overs a further bolt of lightning caused the umpires to order the retraction and switching off of the floodlights in the interests of player safety. Heavy rain and thunder quickly followed.
In explaining the ECB's protocol, umpire Lloyds said: “It’s really all about safety in these conditions and once we saw the leaves blowing off the trees next to the ground we knew something big was on the way.
“When the umpires witness lightning followed by a clap of thunder within 40 seconds, we’re obliged to turn off the floodlights and withdraw the pylons. With bad light and dangerous winds, we then took the players off, but it’s not just for player safety, it’s for the groundstaff and spectators too, so that they can take cover and be out of danger as soon as possible.
"Then of course, with lightning around, the groundstaff can’t roll on and use the metal covers or pin down the sheets covering the pitch, so things might not stay as dry as they usually would.
“Of course, it’s disappointing to have to abandon the game, but I think the procedure worked properly and well here tonight.”