A superb performance, that included contributions across the board, helped Gloucestershire to victory over Kent on a glorious afternoon in Bristol.
They made it difficult for themselves though as, Kent led well by Sean Dickson who made 32 from 22 deliveries, recovered well from 106-6 to finish on 179-8, just short of their target of 185.
Sam Billings won the toss and asked Gloucestershire to bowl first and it was a decision vindicated as Kent started strongly in the field. Miles Hammond, who had looked to be aggressive from the start by striking the first six of the game in the opening over, was caught by Joe Denly at point off Adam Milne with just 13 runs on the board.
New man Ian Cockbain and Michael Klinger set about the recovery process taking their team to 46-1 at the end of the powerplay.
Though both would be undone by man of the moment Denly. Klinger held out to Alex Blake at long-on for 10, and then in the Kent vice-captains’ next over he would bowl Cockbain for 29.
Calum Haggett then got in on the act trapping Gareth Roderick lbw for 13, the wicketkeeper looking for a switch hit but missing the ball completely.
82-4 after ten overs meant Kent were well on top, but Kieran Noema-Barnett was in no mood to hang around as he struck Denly for two huge sixes towards the pavilion, the New Zealander ruining the spinner’s figures somewhat with 16 coming from his final over.
Noema-Barnett would eventually perish in the 14th to Brathwaite but his 31 from 15 balls had given the Gloucestershire innings some crucial impetus.
Jack Taylor continued the momentum that all-rounder Noema-Barnett had provided to play a match winning knock of his own.
It took him a while to get going with just 11 runs coming from his first eight deliveries but when he struck the returning Brathwaite into the Mound Stand at the start of the 17th over, his intentions had clearly changed.
Haggett was the next bowler to fall victim to the aggressive Taylor, being clubbed down the ground towards the flats for his second maximum.
An extraordinary display of hitting, in which Taylor’s unbeaten 42 from just 23 balls took Gloucestershire to a competitive total of 184-7, which at one stage had looked unlikely.
Ryan Higgins also contributed with 22 until eventually falling to Brathwaite, caught by Heino Kuhn. Graeme van Buuren was also smothered by Kuhn in the deep, this time off Claydon as Kent took the seventh Gloucestershire wicket in the penultimate over of the innings.
In reply, Kent were comfortable for the most part early on. Daniel Bell-Drummond and Heino Kuhn taking the attack to the Gloucestershire bowlers, despite Joe Denly being bowled by van Buuren in the second over.
A score of 54-1 after the first six overs bettered their opponent’s effort at that stage, and although Bell-Drummond was caught well on the cover boundary by van Buuren off Higgins in the next over, Kent’s chances of a third successive T20 win this season was well and truly on the cards.
This was even more the case when captain Sam Billings struck Matt Taylor for back-to-back sixes in the ninth, and then added another in the following over. Tom Smith this time suffering from the Kent captain’s brute force.
However Billings could not go on and his dismissal very next ball instigated a collapse that ultimately cost Kent the match. Firstly, he was bowled by Smith going for one big hit too many before Blake, who was caught by Hammond off Higgins, Brathwaite and importantly Kuhn – who had yet to be dismissed in this year’s competition – all fell in the space of fours overs as 87-2 quickly became 106-6.
Brathwaite was bowled by a peach of a delivery from Matt Taylor, and Kuhn, who had looked the most dangerous of the Kent batsmen, offered a simple caught and bowled chance to Noema-Barnett’s very first ball of the innings for 44.
Kuhn’s wicket had put Gloucestershire firmly in the driving seat, but Kent weren’t going to give up their unbeaten record without a fight, as Haggett and Sean Dickson went about compiling a partnership of 49 in just under five overs.
It would have been easy for either to buckle in the precarious situation they faced, but the two gave their team a chance.
31 runs were added in the 16th and 17th overs combined to leave a formula of 34 from 18 balls for Kent.
But Higgins would be the Gloucestershire hero with his final two overs taking his team to victory.
Just six runs came from the 18th, but crucially the former Middlesex man also ran out Haggett at the non-strikers end after fielding a drive from Dickson.
Higgins would return to bowl the final over in which 19 runs were needed and, despite Milne striking two fours to leave a situation of eight being required from the final three deliveries, Higgins held his nerve as Gloucestershire sealed a five-run win.
Sean Dickson was run out from the penultimate ball of the innings, the batsman’s excellent knock ended by a fantastic throw in the deep by Jack Taylor attempting a second run.
Mitch Claydon had to strike the final ball for six to take his team to victory, but he couldn’t even keep the bat in his hand and those supporters who had made the trip to the Brightside Ground celebrated a fabulous victory.