Crawley ton inspires Kent win
Crawley ton inspires Kent win

Zak Crawley continued his love affair with the Ageas Bowl as he smashed his maiden Vitality Blast century to propel Kent to victory over Hampshire.

England star Crawley notched a Test 256 last month at the ground and sustained his fine form with an outrageous unbeaten 108.

His 14 fours and two sixes saw Kent return to winning ways with an eight-wicket win, as they chased an imposing 182 with 17 balls to spare.

Along with his England heroics, Crawley had scored a Bob Willis Trophy century against Hampshire at Canterbury last week, partnered with 196 in his six previous Blast innings.

Those factors equalled an inevitable flurry of runs, but the manner of his century was jaw-dropping.

He showed his intent by drilling Shaheen Shah Afridi through the covers off his first delivery and barely slowed down.

Daniel Bell Drummond contributed 12 before he was caught at short third man, but Crawley hardly blinked as he hit Chris Wood for a four and six off the start of the next over.

His half-century arrived in only 26 balls, with a boundary through mid-wicket – his seventh four.

Crawley peppered boundaries to every angle of the ground, with his wagon-wheel leaving very little blank spaces.

A stunning cover drive and six off his legs off Afridi rockets mesmerised before his hundred, the ninth in Kent T20 history, was brought up with a sweep in 48 balls.

Joe Denly simply ticked along at the other end as the duo put on 121 before the all-rounder picked out long-on.

Heino Kuhn came in to waltz Kent over the line with 19 not out, but it was Crawley who led his side off to rapturous applause from his team-mates. 

Hampshire won’t have felt like they had bowled too badly, and would have been happy at the halfway point after James Vince’s 48 and James Fuller’s half-century.

Vince had failed in his two appearances since returning from the birth of his second child, but despite initially struggling to time the ball he quickly looked back to his free-flowing best.

He lost opening partner Tom Alsop, stumped to the fourth ball of the match, but quickly rebuilt with Sam Northeast – the pair putting on 82 for the second wicket.

Both targeted the short boundary on the Nursery Ground side of the Ageas Bowl, although Vince gained a life on 21 when he was spilt by Joe Denly at deep cover.

Northeast pumped a full toss for a square maximum but departed for a 28 ball 34 when he was caught at long-on.

Vince fell for 48 when he reverse swept Imran Qayyum straight to short third man, before Joe Weatherley upped the run-rate again with a quick-fire 17 – which included an audacious switch hit into the stands.

Hampshire looked on course for a good score, but Fuller and Lewis McManus made sure they set a very competitive total.

Fuller waited just four balls before he swung down the ground for a six, but it was Matt Milnes’ 19th over that sent his strike-rate into the stratosphere.

Two fours were quickly followed by back-to-back monsters into the Colin Ingleby-Mackenzie Stand as the penultimate over went for 23.

McManus (15 of six balls) was run out after a 47-run stand and Ian Holland was caught and bowled first ball, but Fuller bought up his 23-ball fifty with a six to the long side of the ground off the final ball of the innings.

But Crawley made mincemeat of the chase.

The victory takes Kent to the top of the South Group while Hampshire can no longer qualify for the quarter-finals, despite still having three more fixtures, after a wretched tournament of one win in seven outings.

Speaking at the end of the game, Crawley said: “That was immensely enjoyable. I have quite fond memories here and they always produce favourable wickets and today was no different.

“The top six overs are very important for us, and me and Deebz [Daniel Bell Drummond] have spoken about going at them hard and putting the other team under pressure. It won’t work every time but it has worked well so far.

“I felt in good nick. It wasn’t premeditated at all, I just tried to play everything on its merits.

“I tried to hit is square today as it was a little slow. So I thought if I could beat the point and square then I would have more success. That was my only thought.

“It was a big goal of mine to score a T20 hundred so I am very thankfully I have been able to do it today.

“It is pretty hard to do. You need to be batting in the top three and have a big day out.

“At the moment the whole innings has blurred into one but I remember one shot off Shaheen Afridi when he bowled a slower ball and I hit it between extra cover and mid-off. That was probably my favourite shot – it was more of a four-day shot really.

“Joe batted brilliantly to take the pressure of me. He is usually the guy hitting it over the ropes but he was getting singles and twos to get me on strike, which I really appreciated.

“We were going pretty well and then had a little blip in the last game so this became a must-win game. It was a big game but thankfully we won it and can take the momentum forward to get into the top two.”

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