An earthquake measuring 4.2 on the Richter scale hit the Kent coast this morning, but that was nothing compared to the devastation visited by Sam Northeast’s men on Hampshire at the Ageas Bowl. An anchoring 60 from Northeast and a phenomenal counter-attacking 71 off 30 balls from Alex Blake sunk their hosts after falling to 70-5 in their chase of 173.
The Hampshire innings threatened at times to put the game beyond the visitors. Michael Carberry helped himself to back-to-back sixes in Darren Stevens’ first over. Stevens is one of the most valuable bowlers in domestic Twenty20 cricket for his ability to take pace off the ball, but a batsman of Carberry’s strength has no trouble clearing the ropes even against the slower seamers.
With the score at 28-0 and stand-in skipper Sam Northeast’s plans already disrupted, Carberry tickled a loose ball from former Hampshire pacer David Griffiths to the fine leg boundary. The next delivery, he perished to Joe Denly in the deep. He was not to be Denly’s only victim.
Young Kent spinner Adam Riley produced a wonderful delivery that deceived Jimmy Adams in flight to bowl him for one off his fourth delivery. T20 captain James Vince and veteran Owais Shah began the rebuilding process.
Riley had figures of 1-9 off two when Sam Northeast tossed him the ball for the twelfth over. Vince hit his first ball for four, and then cleared the midwicket boundary with two consecutive sixes. Riley pushed the ball a little wider on the off side, and Vince simply creamed him over extra cover for four.
Vince hasn’t passed 50 since making his England debut in Malahide earlier this month, but he was beginning to confirm that he is a batsman the selectors need to keep an eye on. On the next ball, he targeted the midwicket boundary once more, but Denly was there to take the catch at the third time of asking after a nervous fumble.
Owais Shah’s 26 off 28 deliveries was a sad indication that perhaps one of the most talented young prospects of the late 90s and early 2000s is somewhat out of the swing of modern T20 cricket. He doesn’t play the reverse-sweep, he didn’t look in good enough touch to find the gaps, and he became over-reliant on the strategy of backing away and trying to free his arms. The bowlers worked him out well, and when he tried to swing over midwicket, Denly took an impressive running catch to dent Hampshire once again.
A handy cameo of 36 off 18 from Adam Wheater helped Hampshire to 172 from their 20 overs. At several moments in the innings, 190 and even 200 must have crossed their minds. But Hampshire have a formidable reputation for defending well in Twenty20, and the boundaries had already proven difficult to clear.
They opened with spin, and were rewarded almost immediately when Daniel Bell-Drummond drove a return catch to Will Smith. Joe Denly made full use of Fidel Edwards’ extra pace and erring radar to steal 18 runs off the third over, but things were to get worse for Kent before they got better.
Danny Briggs became the second young twirler in this match to strike with his first ball when Denly smashed him straight to Jimmy Adams. The run-rate turned in Hampshire’s favour as Sam Billings and Northeast looked to recover from 39-2, but a direct hit from a flying Adam Wheater ran Billings out for 15.
Worse was to come. Will Smith was brought on to contain Stevens and Northeast, but Stevens charged past a delivery that slid past him and offered an easy stumping. Two balls later, Fabian Cowdrey shuffled across his stumps and was trapped lbw.
It was Alex Blake who turned the game on its head. With six overs left, WASP stood at 3%. When Chris Wood was plundered for 18 in the 15th over, it barely caused a murmur. It was only when he slammed Danny Briggs over his head for a straight six that Hampshire started feeling and looking vulnerable. He devastated Edwards and Arafat to pull off a stunning win that will undoubtedly give Kent inspiration for the rest of their Blast campaign.
Man of the Match
Against the death bowlers, Alex Blake’s brutality had a ruthless, efficient beauty. The pitch was good for batting, and he timed his shots perfectly, especially off Edwards and Arafat. He was dropped by Michael Carberry in the deep when Kent needed 31 off 17, and the ball was parried for four, and wrapped up the win by hammering Yasir Arafat into the stands for an emphatic six. He took Kent from a seemingly hopeless position to a truly remarkable victory.