JAMES Vince showed his class with a supreme 99 not out to fire Hampshire to the top of the Natwest T20 Blast south group in a breathtaking victory at Kent.
The Hampshire skipper struck a career best in t20 cricket as he hammered eight fours and five sixes in his 57-ball effort in a game reduced to 18 overs per side by a thunderstorm.
It made little difference to the scoring, however, as Kent raced to 183 for five. Sam Northeast (54) excelled and and Alex Blake (49 not out) showed that his efforts at the Ageas Bowl recently were not a one-off.
But Vince used all of his customary calmness and made light of a run rate up above 10 runs per over before the first ball was bowled.
And he then dragged his side over the line with just one ball to spare after some vital support from Sean Ervine (37) to avenge the shock defeat they suffered in the reverse fixture three weeks ago.
Batting first after winning the toss, Kent’s Joe Denly was sent packing by Fidel Edwards’ yorker as the West Indies star signed off his Hampshire stint (two for 41).
Kent then made good progress with Northeast leading the charge before Daniel Bell-Drummond (19) was bowled by Yasir Arafat’s first ball of the night.
Danny Briggs accounted for Fabian Cowdrey (13) to leave the Spitfires on 77 for three at the mid-point of their innings.
Northeast then holed out to long on to give Edwards a second scalp.
But it was the dangerous Blake who added some momentum down the order again with six fours and two sixes in just 25 balls, even taking 21 runs off Arafat’s final over.
Vince’s men then made a poor start to their reply when Michael Carberry (three) gave former Hampshire man Matt Coles (two for 44) his first wicket and Jimmy Adams (16) followed soon afterwards.
As fog descended in Canterbury, Hampshire had 75 on the scoreboard when Owais Shah (18) walked across his stumps aiming for the short, mid-wicket boundary only to miss out and go lbw to Stevens.
But Vince and Ervine gathered the innings together with some big shots during the middle overs and kept in touch with the scoring rate to set up the late push.
Vince reached his half-century in 36 balls and celebrated by clubbing his third six of the night over mid-wicket off James Tredwell.
Ervine’s stay ended when he clipped Adam Ball to long off to end a partnership that added 58 in five overs.
Vince ploughed on however, plundering a fourth six off Ball that endangered the staff in a mobile burger bar.
And having whittled the target down to just five runs from Mitchell Claydon’s final over, it was fitting that the skipper struck the winning runs to seal a famous victory.