An incredible innings from James Vince (99*) guided Hampshire to a fantastic six-wicket win over Kent in the NatWest T20 Blast at Canterbury.
Wickets came for Fidel Edwards (2-41), Yasir Arafat (2-44) and Danny Briggs (1-37) as Kent stumbled early to begin, but some fine batting from Sam Northeast (53) and Alex Blake (49*) helped the hosts reach an impressive 183-4 from their allotted overs.
Early wickets fell in reply, but a remarkable knock from Vince as well as good support from Ervine (38) helped Hampshire claim an emphatic victory as they chased down the large total in the final over.
After rain had initially delayed the start, a reduced match of 18 overs per side was agreed and after being asked to field first, Hampshire began in excellent style - Edwards striking in his first over to make an early impact.
Daniel Bell-Drummond (19) and Northeast helped the hosts recover slightly but the former was soon to also depart as Arafat grabbed his first wicket with his opening delivery to leave Kent 51-2.
Northeast continued to attack and he looked in good touch as he sought to find the boundary at every opportunity.
Although the skipper lacked support following the powerplay, as Danny Briggs removed Cowdrey (13), he continued to bat positively and he brought up a well-made half-century inside the 11th over.
However, Edwards was again rewarded for his efforts with the vital wicket of the opposition captain helping reduce the home-side to 100-4 with 7 overs remaining.
Darren Stevens (25) and Blake came together and their counter-attacking batting helped accumulate runs at a quicker pace, before Arafat again made the breakthrough to remove the former.
But, the power-hitting of Blake proved troublesome for the Hampshire bowling unit, the left-hander continuing his form from the reverse fixture earlier in the season to steer Kent to 183-5 from their allotted overs.
In response, the early losses of Michael Carberry (3) and Jimmy Adams (16) did not stop captain Vince from continuing his brilliant form from last week’s half-century with another example of his elegant stroke-play.
An important partnership from Vince and the experienced Owais Shah (18) gave the visitors important momentum as they kept up with the required rate but he was trapped LBW as Hants fell to 75-3 from eight overs.
However, Sean Ervine made an immediate impact on his arrival at the crease, scoring 34 off his opening 13 deliveries to propel the away-side to 133-3.
Despite Ervine falling with just four overs remaining, Vince continued to demonstrate his stunning hitting ability, picking up crucial boundaries in the closing overs to leave Hampshire needing just 30 from the remaining 20 balls and with a sniff of a staggering victory.
In what was still a difficult task, Vince continued to dominate the bowling attack and he led his side to the final over with just five needed from it thanks to yet further exceptional batting.
With four runs coming from the opening three deliveries and the scores were tied, he timed his side’s chase to perfection and it was only fitting that he hit the winning runs with a ball to spare to hand Hampshire a superb victory that sees them now top of the South Group.
Words: Will Brewster