Wake-up call for Royals in Kent loss

Michael Carberry Picture: Neil Marshall
Michael Carberry Picture: Neil Marshall
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Hampshire were given a timely wake-up call in their Friends Life t20 quest as their proud unbeaten run finally came to an end.

Having remained unbeaten in domestic t20 cricket since June of last year, it was ironic that the same opponents who were responsible last time – Kent Spitfires – claimed an eight-run success at the Ageas Bowl.

It was certainly not a result that would have been predicted by many, with Kent previously winless in this year’s competition and the Royals in fine form on the back of their victory at Surrey on Friday night.

But the beauty of t20 cricket is that the game can change quickly and any side can beat any other if it is their day.

With Kent posting 143 for eight from their 20 overs, it didn’t look like an especially taxing total to chase.

Beaten in each of their previous five south group matches, Kent freshened up their top order and handed t20 debuts to Daniel Bell-Drummond (27) and Fabian Cowdrey (21).

But Danny Briggs entered the fray and played an influential role, returning tremendous figures of three wickets for 19 that put the brakes on Kent’s charge.

From 55 without loss, Kent wickets fell steadily and their final total of 143 looked at least 20 runs short of what would be competitive.

Kent’s bowlers, however, had other ideas as James Vince (five) fell early in the reply.

Jimmy Adams (13) and Carberry got the Royals to 50 for one before Adams was sent packing.

But when Carberry went looking for one big shot too many, the alarm bells started ringing for the home side as the run-rate slowed to a crawl.

While Neil McKenzie (47) and Sean Ervine (27) launched the counter-attack, it was a tall order until Ervine took Darren Stevens to the cleaners in the 16th over as he plundered 18 runs.

That appeared to have swung the game back in Hampshire’s favour, only for Mitchell Claydon (two for 24) to bowl a fine 18th over where he conceded just three runs.

As Royals wickets fell, the pressure mounted to the point of requiring 14 runs from the final over – a task that proved to be ultimately beyond them as they fell eight runs short.

While it was a first defeat in 17 domestic t20 games for the Royals, they will know themselves that they have enjoyed the odd slice of luck of two in the campaign so far.

On this occasion, their luck ran out as they simply left themselves too much to do in the closing overs.

But while defeat on home turf is never an appetising prospect, they have already shown they have more than enough to earn another place at this year’s finals day.

And the fact they lost their undefeated record will have little bearing on whether they can mount a successful defence of the title.