Spitfires pull off comeback win
Spitfires pull off comeback win

Mitchell Claydon heroically defended 16 in the final over to back up Daniel Bell-Drummond’s ninth career T20 fifty as Kent edged a last over thriller to beat Hampshire by five runs in the Natwest T20 Blast.

England Lions star Bell-Drummond wonderfully hit 62 to help the visitors reach 159 for six on a slow track – with Pakistani leg-spinner taking four for 26.

But a brilliant final three overs from Jimmy Neesham, Matt Coles and Claydon made sure Hampshire were left four runs short of what looked like a simple victory.

James Vince and Rilee Rossouw had got Hampshire off to a quick start in their quest to reach 160.

Skipper Vince in particular took a fancy to fast bowler Clayton, who he dispatched for the match’s first six over cover in the fourth over.

But the fast bowler hit back three balls later as Rossouw picked out Alex Blake at mid-on to break the 43-run opening partnership.

Vince departed to the final ball of the powerplay as he was yorked by former teammate Matt Coles – as Hampshire sped to 60 in the opening six overs.

Spin pair Imran Qayyum and James Tredwell put the brakes on Hampshire’s charge with tight middle overs.

And from then on the hosts struggled, Bailey and Alsop neatly added 40 to take their side to 28 runs from victory before the Australian chipped a paddle sweep to short fine leg for a season best 41.

Liam Dawson then picked out Blake on the long on boundary after Neesham had only gone for two in the 18th over.

Coles then went for six in the penultimate over before Claydon brilliantly defended the last six balls, as he only went for 10, to lift Kent’s hopes of reaching the quarter-finals.

Earlier, Kent captain Sam Northeast won the toss and decided to bat on a grubby track under thin grey clouds.
Joe Denly and Bell-Drummond set off at an understated rate, which set the tone for the innings.

Denly cracked back-to-back fours off Chris Wood in the second over, two of just 12 boundaries in the Kent total, as they reached 47 by the end of the powerplay.

Mason Crane broke the 65-run opening stand when he bowled Denly with a googly.

Skipper Northeast was bowled for a quick 10 and Sam Billings picked out Crane on the long on boundary – as Afridi showed his class.

England Lions star Bell-Drummond continued to tick the score along effortlessly and reached a 33-ball fifty.

Afridi was keeping things tight at the other end but waited until his final over to blow the visitors away by snatching two wickets in two balls.

Jimmy Neesham top edged a sweep to short third man and Bell-Drummond was brilliant caught for 62 by a sliding Dawson on the cover boundary – leaving Afridi with his third best Hampshire T20 figures.

Alex Blake and Darren Stevens struck a quick 39 to lift Kent to 159 although the latter was caught at mid-off at the final ball as Kyle Abbott deceived him with a slower ball – with the quick late runs a key factor in making sure Kent went level on points to Hampshire.

Hampshire captain James Vince was disappointed after the defeat: “For three quarters of the game we did better than them but we struggled to find the boundary in the second half of our innings.

“They bowled pretty well, both side bowled well tonight.

“We needed 72 from 10 overs with eight wickets in hand – it was a bit of a mess up but we have to move on for Friday.

“Afridi hasn’t really hit it miles yet this season and McManus has been in really good touch.

“We didn’t lose a wicket for a while so no one went in and we left too much to do in the back end.

“In hindsight we would have liked to win that with an over to spare.”

Meanwhile, Kent all-rounder Jimmy Neesham was pleased with how the Spitfires hung on to win the game:

“My wicket of Dawson was part of the comeback but the way Claydon and Coles closed up the last two overs was exceptional.

“We knew we were behind the eight ball for much of that second innings but knew a couple of good overs and we were right back in it and the way the guys delivered at the death did the job for us.

“I said before that 160 was about on par.

“The way their spinners Dawson and Afridi bowled it was tough to get the ball away when they put it in the right areas.

“It skid on under lights but the pitch was not an absolute belter.

“I was happy to see Afridi up there in the shed rather than out in the middle.

“You look at the group and we are two points off second and a point off last.

“Everyone has work to do to get to the quarter finals.”