Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Sport - By Alex Hoad

Matt Walker ad­mits the Spit­fires face a tricky bal­anc­ing act with two NatWest T20 Blast games – more than 200 miles apart – in 24 hours that could de­ter­mine their fate.

De­spite the de­flat­ing five-wicket de­feat in their last South Group game at home to Sus­sex last Friday, Kent still har­bour hopes of a top-four fin­ish and a quar­ter-fi­nal place in an in­cred­i­bly tight di­vi­sion.

While they sit just a point off the bot­tom in sev­enth spot, Kent re­main just two points be­hind fourth-placed Hamp­shire, who visit Can­ter­bury on Friday (7pm) and only three off sec­ond-placed Som­er­set, who they visit at 4pm the fol­low­ing af­ter­noon.

Walker ad­mit­ted the two days could be piv­otal to their chances but warned: “It’s go­ing to be a lit­tle bit tricky in terms of man­ag­ing the tired­ness lev­els and the travel we have to deal with.

“It’s the first time it’s hap­pened this year – this is the one in­stance we’ve got when we’re un­der pres­sure.

“We’ll fin­ish late on Friday and then it’s a long four hours on the bus to get down there in the mid­dle of the night ready for 4pm on Satur­day.

“We’ve been in these sit­u­a­tions be­fore but the boys un­der­stand and they are pretty res­o­lute. We have to try and pre­pare as well as we can for Satur­day.

“Some­times peo­ple re­spond bril­liantly to those sort of sit­u­a­tions and find a way. We just have to make sure ev­ery­one gets enough sleep and turns up on the day ready for it. We’ll work a way out.”

Kent have yet to win con­sec­u­tive games in the com­pe­ti­tion this sea­son – gen­er­ally al­ter­nat­ing be­tween win­ning and los­ing – but Walker hopes a quick turn­around could help mo­men­tum.

He said: “It would be nice if we could get that first win on Friday night to lead us into the Satur­day.

“We’ll pick a team to win each game whether that’s the same team or we make slight changes to take into ac­count the ground size, surface or nig­gles.

“I’ll back a squad of 13 to be able to man­age both games.”

Kent rested most se­nior T20 play­ers for a three-day tour match against the West Indies this week but their Cham­pi­onship ri­vals were in ac­tion, with pro­mo­tion ri­vals Worces­ter­shire beaten by Sus­sex to give Walker’s side a boost.

He said: “There have been some in­ter­est­ingly low scores fly­ing about in the Cham­pi­onship this week. I don’t think it’s easy to switch straight back into four-day mode from T20.

“It’s dif­fi­cult, you’re ex­pected to put out a strong side against the tourists but we have to be sen­si­ble.”

Mean­while, Kent seamer Hugh Bernard has been given per­mis­sion to ne­go­ti­ate a new con­tract at an­other county.

The 20-year-old, who played one FC match in 2016 and ap­peared twice on the pre-sea­son FGS Plant Tour ear­lier this year, is out of con­tract at the end of the sea­son. build pos­i­tive KENT’S NEXT FIVE GAMES Aug 11 Hamp­shire (Can­ter­bury) ...T20 Aug 18 Sur­rey (Can­ter­bury)........... T20 Aug 28 Le­ices­ter­shire (Can­ter­bury) ....CC

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