Daniel Bell-Drummond continued his fine one-day form with an outstanding 90 but could not prevent Kent Spitfires losing the opening match of the 2018 Royal London One-Day Cup against Sussex Sharks at Hove.
Matt Henry (2/32) and Mitch Claydon (1/20) in his 100th List A match were the only bowlers to strike as Sussex cantered to victory.
After winning the toss and opting to bat first, Spitfires skipper Joe Denly was the first man out as the hosts made early in-roads on the South coast.
Opener Daniel Bell-Drummond was the standout performer, last out for 90 from 115 balls, the fifth time he has passed 50 in his last nine innings in the competition.
But apart from a stand of 85 in 13 overs with Alex Blake (29) for the fourth wicket, he never got the necessary support.
India paceman Ishant Sharma ripped one through skipper Joe Denly’s defences to knock out his middle and off stumps with the first ball of the second over.
Former Kent scholar Ollie Robinson picked up Zak Crawley and Heino Kuhn in an impressive opening spell to leave Kent 25 for 3 before Bell-Drummond and Blake rebuilt.
Blake then missed a reverse-sweep to fall leg-before in Wells’ first over for 29 and Kent wickets fell regularly after that. Left-arm spinner Danny Briggs bowled with impressive control in a spell of 3 for 25 which brought him the wickets of Adam Rouse (2),
Darren Stevens (4) and Callum Haggett (8) and with Wells giving him excellent support, Sussex’s two slow bowlers had combined figures of 5 for 53 from 20 overs.
Bell-Drummond hit Robinson for a straight six from a free hit early in his innings and six fours but missed out on a century when he sliced a drive to deep point off Sharma.
Luke Wells produced an impressive all-round performance in only his seventh game in the competition and first for nearly two years.
He took 2 for 30 with his leg spin and anchored Sussex’s response with 62 from 89 balls with skipper Ben Brown posting an unbeaten 73 to lead his side to a seven-wicket win.
Kent hopes had been raised by two early breakthroughs. Luke Wright (4) nicked Mitch Claydon to slip and Harry Finch (9) was caught behind off Matt Henry to leave Sussex 19 for 2.
Wells played watchfully at first before picking up the pace. He reached his maiden List A 50 with a drive down the ground for his seventh four and added more two boundaries before Henry returned to knock back his leg stump and end a stand of 107 in 22 overs with Brown.
Brown passed 50 for the sixth time in List A cricket, his runs coming off 86 balls with six fours. Laurie Evans supported him with 38 not out in an unbroken fourth-wicket stand of 63 in 12.2 overs.
Next up in the Royal London One-Day Cup, the Spitfires travel to Radlett to play Middlesex (11am) before home matches against Glamorgan next Friday (25 May, 11am) and Somerset on Tuesday 29 May (2pm).