Crawley stars as Kent victorious
Crawley stars as Kent victorious

England Test batsman Zak Crawley hammered an imperious 94-ball century to help Kent to a comfortable seven-wicket Bob Willis Trophy win over Hampshire in Canterbury.

Crawley, who stroked 18 boundaries during his 146-minute stay, joined forces with Marcus O’Riordan (52*) – his former Tonbridge School team-mate – to mark their maiden first-class partnership with a match-winning second-wicket stand worth 157 as Kent cantered home with a day and 21 overs to spare.

Crawley, who suffered an eight-ball duck in the first innings here, reached three figures for only the fifth time in domestic first-class cricket with a rasping pulled four against seamer Ajeet Dale.

With the hosts needing only 16 for victory, Crawley blotted his copybook by missing an ambitious sweep against leg-spinner Mason Crane to depart leg before for 105.

Jack Leaning was bowled by Dale for a duck during the final throws, but O’Riordan, diligent to the end, saw the job through with an unbeaten 52, reaching his maiden first-class 50 from 121 balls and with six fours.

Kent had made a miserable start to their successful pursuit when acting captain Daniel Bell-Drummond became a first-over casualty, bowled for seven after allowing the ball from Ian Holland to spin back onto his stumps and dislodge the off bail.    

But O’Riordan, playing as Kent’s makeshift opening bat due to Jordan Cox’s issues with stomach cramps, combined with Crawley to add 50 inside 66 minutes.

On his competition debut, Crawley should have gone for 35 but saw his lofted, bottom-handed on-drive against Tom Scriven dropped by Dale at wide mid-on and, much to Scriven’s annoyance, parried to the ropes for four. 

The tall right-hander celebrated the let-off by cracking three more quick-fire boundaries off Scriven to reach a 44-ball 50 with 10 fours.      

The pair took their run-a-minute stand into three figures inside 24 overs, by which time the classy Crawley was virtually playing see-ball, hit ball.

Despite dropping six cordon catches in the opening two days of the game, Kent polished off their win soon after tea to secure their third Willis Trophy victory in five starts. Their only defeat coming in the opening round away to Essex, who had secured their south group title with a nine-wicket triumph over Middlesex at Chelmsford earlier in the day.  

Hampshire had started day three on their overnight total of 108 for five – for an overall lead in the match of 129 runs – yet failed to bat out the morning session despite a three-hour career-best vigil worth 68 by Tom Scriven.

They added only two before Lewis McManus steered Harry Podmore’s lifting leg-cutter to third slip without adding to his 95-ball half-century.

Scriven, the 21-year-old all-rounder making his second Willis Trophy appearance, reached his maiden first-class 50 from 96 balls and with nine fours with a rasping square drive against Grant Stewart who, somewhat unusually, opened the bowling ahead of Kent’s leading wicket-taker Darren Stevens.

Podmore bagged his first five-wicket return of the campaign in his next over by enticing debutant Scott Currie to follow an away-swinger and edge low to slip.

Stevens replaced Stewart at The Nackington Road End after 40 minutes’ play and, as if to make a point to acting skipper Bell-Drummond, struck with his fifth ball by removing Crane after a sliced drive to gully.

With Matt Milnes unable to bowl and off the field with a stiff back, Stewart was switched to the Pavilion End to replace Podmore but, despite beating the bat on numerous occasions struggled to find an edge.

Kent’s relentless pressure paid dividends, however, when Scriven dragged an attempted straight drive against Stevens straight into the hands of Podmore at mid-on.

Stewart finally got his deserved wicket and denied Stevens another five-wicket return when last man Dale edged an attempted push drive through to the keeper.

Podmore closed with season’s best figures of five for 43 and Stevens returned four for 35 and match figures of nine for 72.  

Crawley, Kent’s century-maker, said: “It was just like old times batting with Marcus out there today. We shared a lot of partnerships at school and he’s always been a close mate of mine.

“We spent four years together at Tonbridge and he scored a lot more runs than me at school, in fact, I had to spend a lot of my time watching him bat.

“We were saying the whole time out there, ‘this is just like old times’ and whenever you’re batting with someone you really get on with it settles you down and makes life a lot easier. Hopefully we have many more partnerships together.

“As I came to the crease it seemed quite difficult at the start so I had it in my mind to go at it aggressively. After playing and missing at a couple I thought that was the best way to go.

“Marcus played brilliantly at the other end to take the pressure off me. If we’d ben losing wickets down the other end the run chase might have been so much more difficult, but he played brilliantly. His was a match-winning knock.

“On that pitch, he was excellent. I personally didn’t back my defence on that surface, it was doing that much, but Marcus did and in that way his knock was a lot better than mine. To finish not out at the end, averaging 90 for the game, because his 37 in the first innings was crucial as well as he got us up to 20 behind and gave us a better chance in the game.”

Adrian Birrell, Hampshire’s 1st XI manager, said: “Margins are very small when you’re bowling at an international player of Crawley’s calibre. He put us under pressure and it showed. That can happen sometimes and the game just seems to rush away from you as a result.

“For most of the match we were in the match and even when we were 23 for five yesterday, we showed great character and guts from our young team to set them a target in excess of 180 to win. They fought very well against a seasoned attack.

“We came unstuck today but we’ve learned a lot about some of our younger lads. Brad Wheal had a decent start to his career but has been injured for a long time. I think he spent 800 days between first-class games, so we’re thrilled to have him back. He had to take time to build his belief that his body could be resilient again.

“This was Tom Scriven’s second game and, walking in at 23 for five, he and McManus showed a lot of guts and mettle to put on an 85-run partnership. He showed he can play at this level.

“As for Scott Currie, he really excites me. He’s an England Under-19 international. He batted really well for 38 when we were struggling on the first day and shaped up like a top-order batter.

“His match highlight was getting Crawley leg before early on day two. He’s made his debut now in both formats and will take a lot out of this performance.”