Kent slip to T20 defeat
Kent slip to T20 defeat

Durban-born keeper-batsman Calvin Dickenson scored a sublime 23-ball 50 to upstage his Kent counterpart Sam Billings and set up Hampshire’s six-wicket NatWest T20 Blast win over the Spitfires in Canterbury.In only his second appearance in the short-form game, the diminutive Dickinson cracked eight fours and two sixes to get Hampshire off to a flying start in their pursuit of Kent’s par-for-the-course total of 167 for seven.

Following Dickenson’s pyrotechnics, Hampshire skipper James Vince played a typically level-headed innings of 57 off 36-balls to earn his side’s seventh south group win with 16 deliveries to spare.

Dickenson said: “It’s been a brilliant couple of days and really nice to get out there and play some first team cricket. Kent were biting at our heels going into this game, so this was a vital win for us tonight.

“We’ve probably done enough to qualify now but it’d be great to get a home quarter final. We needed impetus from the start and James Vince and I spoke about one of us going hard at the top. In the 2nd team I’ve looked to be positive and when it’s your day you just have to make the most of it.”

Batting first after losing the toss, Kent recovered from a disastrous start courtesy of Sam Northeast’s 17th T20 half-century.

Spitfires had lost opener Joe Denly without a run on the board. Aiming to late cut left-arm spinner Liam Dawson’s third delivery of the night Denly miscued into the hands of Kyle Abbott at backward point.

The hosts finally opened their boundary account in the fourth over from Gareth Berg when Northeast clipped consecutive balls to the leg-side ropes to take 11off the over.

Left-arm paceman Chris Wood also conceded a brace of boundaries in his first over but Kent could still only muster 40 from their six powerplay overs.

Hampshire, who selected three front-line spinners compared to Kent’s one, introduced leg-spinner Mason Crane to good effect, but it was Abbott who struck next, plucking out Daniel Bell-Drummond’s off stump as the right-hander advanced aiming a lofted drive.

Spitfires raised their 50 in the ninth over when Crane conceded his first boundary of the night to a Northeast square cut, but at their innings mid-point Kent had limped to 61 for two.

Sam Billings appeared unusually subdued when Shahid Afridi came on at the Pavilion End. Content to rotate the strike and let Northeast go for his big shots, Billings finally unfurled an impudent sweep off paceman Wood to garner three through fine leg.

Crane returned only to be bullied into the top deck of the tier of the Woolley Stand by Billings for the night’s first six as 18 came from the over.

Northeast’s late cut for four against Afridi raised his 37-ball 50 with seven fours and posted Kent’s 100 in the 14th over but, with 59 to his name, Northeast chipped one from Dawson to George Bailey at long-on.

With his skipper gone, Billings stepped up to the plate by smashing Dawson for a maximum, yet the spinner still finished with excellent figures of two for 25.

Wood ended Billings’ 25-ball stay for 40 with a perfect yorker, but Stevens lifted the Kentish gloom with an extraordinary sliced six over extra cover against the same bowler.

All-rounder Jimmy Neesham blotted his copybook by running out crowd-favourite Stevens (15) after calling for a risky second run to Crane at deep cover, then Neesham’s back-foot force against Abbott was caught at extra cover by a diving Vince.

Kent’s demise continued as Matt Coles (4) miscued to Afridi to give Gareth Berg one for 29, then Abbott wrapped up his first-rate spell with two for 25 as Kent set Hampshire an asking rate of 8.4 an over for victory.

Neesham’s dismal night continued when he conceded 15 off his first over as Hampshire sprinted out of the blocks in their pursuit of 168.

Dickenson refused to let rookie left-arm spinner Imran Qayyum settle, taking 14 off his first over, then the impish 20-year-old plundered 16 off Coles to post Hampshire’s 50 after only four overs.

Kent’s decision to drop their hugely experienced spinner James Tredwell in favour of Qayyum came into question when the 24-year-old conceded a brace of sixes to James Vince, while, at the other end, Dickinson cantered to his maiden 50 in the Blast.

Dickinson, who caught Hampshire’s eye last season when playing for Oxford MCCU, departed after a miscued drive to mid-on against Mitch Claydon, but his impish innings ensured Hampshire had raced to 79 for one come the end of their powerplay.

Vince and left-hander Tom Alsop took up the attack thereafter, cantering along at almost 10-an-over by simply punishing Kent’s poor deliveries and sloppy fielding.

Vince moved to a 31-ball 50 with his third six off Qayyum whose torrid night improved slightly by having Alsop (34) stumped to end a second-wicket stand of 79. The bowler finished with figures of one for 48.

Shahid Afridi departed after missing a leg-side lap to be bowled by Stevens and top-scorer Vince missed a straight one from Claydon to go for 57, but Kent still tasted a fourth T20 defeat of the season from their five games at The Spitfire Ground, St Lawrence.

Northeast blamed his side’s powerplays with bat and ball for another disappointing reverse. He said: “It’s very frustrating and with the ball we never really got into the game. We felt like we should have scored maybe 180 so we were a little bit short on that after we haltered in losing a few late wickets.

“It hasn’t worked for us in the powerplays this year. I know the guys are trying really hard to improve their skills, but it’s not quite happening.

“Dickenson played really well and put us under pressure from ball one which exactly what you want in a run chase to get off to a flyer like that then James Vince took it on and it looks like he’s in brilliant touch as well.

“We’ve tried a few things in our bowling powerplay with Darren Stevens up front and spin too, but nothing seems to be quite working so well have to scratch our heads and come up with some more plans. We need to win all our three remaining games now, so we’ll try our best in Taunton tomorrow and go from there.”