Spitfires soar in season opener
Spitfires soar in season opener

Kent Spitfires won their first game of the 2021 Vitality T20 Blast on Wednesday, defeating Hampshire Hawks by 38 runs.

A fast start from openers Joe Denly (44) and Daniel bell-Drummond (42) set the foundations for Kent to post a competitive 176/4, before the returning Darren Stevens and left-armer Fred Klaassen shone with the ball to help the Spitfires to a convincing victory.

Hampshire captain James Vince won the toss and decided to bowl first on a sunny evening in Canterbury, leaving Joe Denly and Daniel Bell-Drummond to open the batting for Kent.

The first over produced seven runs, with a four down the ground off the bat of Denly the shot of the over. The former England man followed it up with a lofted shot over mid-wicket also for four in the second over as he moved into double figures.

Liam Dawson was brought on early, and Daniel Bell-Drummond welcomed him to the crease with back-to-back sixes. He then greeted Ian Holland with a four through the covers as Kent accelerated to take control in the powerplay.

Holland played with his field, putting the two men outside the circle back on the leg side, but Denly hit another four down the ground. He dealt Chris Wood a six in the fifth over, and then hit Brad Wheal for three consecutive fours at the start of the sixth as Kent finished the powerplay on 67/0.

D’Arcy Short was brought onto bowl and almost had Bell-Drummond caught first ball, but for a mistake in the field that didn’t allow the onrushing fielder to get to the ball in time. The fourth ball went for six and the fifth for four as Denly tried to keep up with his partner’s scoring – the final ball of the over was swept past fine leg for four more.

Mason Crane then had a go and stopped the rot with his first delivery, having Bell-Drummond caught for 42 as the Spitfires captain tried to go aerial. That brought Ollie Robinson to the crease, fresh off a County Championship hundred against Northamptonshire.

One brought two for Hants however, as Denly ran past one from Liam Dawson almost immediately and Lewis McManus took the bails off with Denly out his ground, seeing him stumped for 44.

England duo Crane and Dawson managed to slow the scoring rate and Crane struck again to bowl Kent number four Alex Blake for just two. New man Jack Leaning didn’t last long either – he ran past one from Crane this time and was too stumped by McManus for one.

With Kent’s innings in danger of dying out, Ollie Robinson tried to anchor proceedings and pulled Short nicely through the leg side for a relieving four. The squeeze continued however, with Mason Crane finishing with figures of 3/23 from his four overs – clearly the standout of the Hampshire attack.

Robinson and Cox struggled to get the ball away as the innings began to draw to a close, with Cox striking at under 100, but Robinson helped things by hitting a six and a four in the 18th over, bowled by Chris Wood, to help Kent past 150.

Jordan Cox holed out off the first ball of the final over for 23 from 25 balls, and Chris Wood them had two in two balls, bowling Robinson around his legs for 48. Grant Stewart ensured there was no hattrick and then flicked the penultimate ball of the innings for four to help Kent up to 176/4 from their 20 overs.

James Vince and D’Arcy Short opened the batting for Hampshire, with Joe Denly having ball in hand for Kent. A second ball drag down by Denly allowed Vince to pull for four, but the former Kent man recovered well to concede just five from his opening over.

A tough misfield by Darren Stevens at fine leg saw Vince flick Fred Klaassen’s first delivery for four, and his third saw another boundary as the Hawks began to get into the swing of things. Another four followed in the over, but it was a mis-timed pull shot that flew just over Grant Stewart’s head at fine leg. One more meant Klaassen’s first over disappeared for 17.

A thick edge from Short flew past Robinson for four off the last ball of Grant Stewart’s first over, and Hampshire hit two more in his second to take Hampshire past 50 to 51/0 at the end of the powerplay.

45-year-old Darren Stevens was brought on for his first bowl in the seventh over, much to the delight of the spectators, and picked up a wicket with his first ball, having Short caught behind down the leg side by Robinson for 29. That brought the veteran to 100 T20 wickets for Kent, and in his first match in the shortest form for the county since 2017.

Debutant James Logan was then brought on and conceded just four runs from his first over, and he soon had his maiden T20 wicket both for Kent and in his career, having former Spitfires captain Sam Northeast caught at long-off by Jordan Cox for six.

Darren Stevens carried on his rampage, having James Vince caught in the deep excellently by Jordan Cox for 34 as Kent began to take control. He eventually finished with figures of 2/22 to make his mark on his return, as the run rate crept above 12.

Fred Klaassen returned to have Liam Dawson caught and bowled for nine, before Alex Blake took a smart catch to dismiss Fuller on the long-on boundary.

Hampshire needed 79 from the final five overs to win, and gave themselves a sniff when Joe Weatherley pulled Matt Milnes’ first ball back for six – the first boundary since the sixth over.

Klaassen struck again however, having Weatherley LBW for an impressive 37 from 22 balls to all but end the visitors’ hopes of victory. Bell-Drummond dropped number eight Ian Holland off Klaassen in the penultimate over, but Jordan Cox took another catch in the deep the very next ball to see Holland on his way – Klaassen finishing with figures of 4/32.

Grant Stewart struck with back-to-back balls at the start of the final over, having Wood and McManus caught by Alex Blake, and the all-rounder saw his team over the line for a convincing 38-run victory as Hampshire closed on 138/9.

Kent’s Fred Klaassen (who took career-best figures of 4-32) said: “The team effort was outstanding. I think the fielding, number one, was top draw. We got off to a flyer with the bat in the power play and posted a good score on that wicket.”

“My first over went for 17 and I was a bit shellshocked really, but then Logan bowled absolutely brilliantly and then we had the Darren Stevens show of course.”

“It was quite remarkable to field during that atmosphere, it went up a few notches I’d say and then Grant (Stewart) bowled bloody well, Milnesey as well. I was probably lucky to pick up a few at the end there.” 

Hampshire’s: Mason Crane said: “It wasn’t to be today. In T20 everything changes really quickly so the lads were disappointed, especially because at half-time we probably would have taken that score.”

“It’s one of those things, it’s a long tournament, there’s loads of game so I’m sure we’ll bounce back. It was nice to start the competion with three for 23, but I want it to be in a winning cause, so I’m still disappointed.” 

Kent’s next game will be against Middlesex on Friday at the Spitfire Ground.