Hampshire were unable to make the most of a dual boundary barrage from Shahid Afridi and Darren Sammy as Kent secured a thrilling eight-run NatWest T20 Blast victory in south group.
With two of the world’s best masterblasters at the crease, Kent’s death bowling specialist, David Griffiths, trusted his yorkers and reaped the rewards by dismissing both in a stint of two for 24 that condemned Hampshire to their third defeat in the competition.
In pursuit of Kent’s 193 for three at an asking rate of 9.7 an over, Hampshire made a poor start when Jimmy Adams (five) chipped the fourth-ball of the reply from Darren Stevens straight to mid-on.
Then, in the third over, Lewis McManus (six) was run out at the non-striker’s end, after Joe Denly’s sharp stop and throw from cover.
Adam Wheater made amends for the run out by pulling former team-mate Griffiths for a six, before Ervine deposited Stevens into the cheap seats to take the visitors on to 48 for two after the powerplay.
Ivan Thomas replaced Griffiths at the Nackington Road End and struck with his third ball by pegging back the off stump of Wheater (19).
James Tredwell snaffled a nonchalant left-handed catch off a leading edge to send Liam Dawson (six) packing and, at 71 for four at the mid-point, the visitors’ required run rate had leapt to 12.3 an over.
Ervine was on 31 when he clubbed to deep square, only to be reprieved when Thomas’ waist-high full-toss was adjudged a no ball.
But further confusion between the batsmen led to the run out of Will Smith (nine).
That was the cue for Ervine to cut loose. Clubbing two successive sixes off Stevens, he reached a 32-ball 50, only to become the third run out victim when trying to scamper a single off Tredwell.
With Afridi and Sammy in tandem, Hampshire’s scoring rate shot up – Afridi hitting four sixes in the space of seven deliveries from Tredwell and Matt Coles.
With 30 balls to go Hampshire’s asking rate had crept under 10 an over for the first time, sparking Sammy to hit his first maximum over mid-wicket.
Afridi’s fun ended for 35 when he drove a low full-toss from Griffiths to long-on as Kent’s death bowlers started to deploy their yorkers at will.
With 26 needed of 12 balls, Sammy pulled Coles for six then leant back to smatter four through extra cover but, to the last ball of the over, the West Indian’s miscued drive was gathered by Coles who span to run out Gareth Andrew who was backing up.
With 14 needed off the last over from Griffiths, Gareth Berg chipped to long off to bring Sammy (30) onto strike, but he feathered a back-foot heave to the keeper to depart for 30 and Hampshire’s hopes went with him.
At the start of the night, Kent openers Daniel Bell-Drummond and Denly faced four different bowlers in as many overs, but had no alarms in posting 52 without loss.
Denly tucked into the bowling of Afridi with a brace of leg-side sixes on his way to a 30-ball 50.
But on 59 he toe-ended a pull against Tino Best to hole out at deep mid-wicket.
Three balls later Best bowled Bell-Drummond (35) as the in-form opener worked across the line.
The hosts re-grouped through Sam Billings and Sam Northeast as Spitfires posted their 150 in the 17th over.
Billings then swept an 87mph delivery from Best for six that flew out of the ground.
The England World Cup squad member reached his 50 in the penultimate over from 27 balls.
Northeast (38) perished to the penultimate delivery of the innings ending a stand of 94 in nine overs with Billings, who finished unbeaten on 55 from 40 balls.
– MARK PENNELL