Key finds form to send Bopara and Essex tumbling

Robert Key has not enjoyed the best of seasons; to be brutally honest, he hasn't enjoyed a really good season for a while now.

But the Kent captain shone last night, scoring 75 to ensure his side thrashed Essex by eight wickets under the new lights at Canterbury.

It was a important result since both sides are in the congested middle of the Friend Life Twenty20 South Group table. Essex, who on paper look an excellent side, were able to include England's Ravi Bopara but he will not have enjoyed his trip across the Thames: he was dismissed for a single and then saw Key collect three boundaries as his only over of the evening went for 14. The result leaves Kent in the last quarter-final qualification spot – fourth – and Essex in sixth, two points back.

Both teams are miles behind Hampshire, who look by some distance the quality of this competition. They won their ninth game last night, thrashing bottom side Middlesex by seven wickets. With a bowling attack heavy on spin – homegrown youngster Danny Briggs is joined by Shahid Afridi and Imran Tahir – the smart money is now on them to retain their Twenty20 title.

Nottinghamshire may have a say in that. The leaders of the North Group beat Derbyshire, Samit Patel unbeaten on 70. Patel, like Key, has been criticised for his weight but they proved last night that it is runs, not pounds, that matter.

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