Adam Milne returned Kent Spitfires’ best-ever T20 bowling figures as they recorded an eighth straight NatWest T20 Blast win against Somerset.
The New Zealander took 5/11 on his return from a thigh injury to dismiss the hosts for 149 at Taunton and Sam Billings saw the Spitfires home with a fine unbeaten 56.
Returning his best figures for Kent, the 25-year-old New Zealand paceman registered 15 dot balls in 3.5 overs as the home side were dismissed in 18.5 overs.
Striking the ball cleanly, Billings then reached his 11th T20 half-century as the visitors reached their target with nine deliveries to spare, in the process inflicting Somerset’s first home defeat in the competition.
Put into bat, Somerset made a blistering start in front of a sell-out crowd, Steve Davies and Lewis Gregory trading almost exclusively in boundaries and matching one another blow for blow in an opening stand of 35. But the momentum shifted dramatically as Somerset then lost three wickets in a power-play that ebbed and flowed.
Davies was brilliantly caught by an airborne Jimmy Neesham at mid-wicket off the bowling of Milne and Gregory top-edged a quicker delivery from Mitchell Claydon and was snaffled by wicketkeeper Sam Billings on the run. When Jim Allenby edged Claydon behind in the fifth over, the home side were 40-3 and firmly on the back foot.
Required to rebuild the innings, Johann Myburgh and James Hildreth had little option but to proceed with a degree of caution. More of an accumulator than a dasher, Hildreth adopted a supporting role, while the naturally pugnacious Myburgh opted to hit out, a high-risk strategy that resulted in him chipping a delivery from Imran Qayyum to cover point for 25.
Hildreth has proved himself a saviour on more than one occasion for Somerset in the short format this summer, helping his team chase down victory targets in games against Middlesex and Surrey. Charged with the task of stabilising the innings, he successfully rotated the strike with Dean Elgar in a revitalising partnership that was characterised by deft placement and feverish running.
Having raised 36 from 30 balls and dominated a stand of 43 for the fifth wicket, Hildreth was looking to accelerate when, in the act of attempting to sweep Milne, he proved fallible and was adjudged lbw with the score on 117 in the 15th over.
South African one-day specialist Roeluf van der Merve was then bowled by a straight ball from Calum Haggett as Somerset’s prospects of posting a challenging total receded.
Called upon to play expansively, Elgar perished in pursuit of a six, held by Alex Blake on the long-on boundary off the bowling of Neesham as Kent, supremely athletic in the field, turned the screw further.
Tim Groenewald hoisted the final ball of the 18th over to deep mid-wicket and Craig Overton was bowled by Milne for 12, at which point the home side were 147-9 and resigned to falling short.
His confidence running high, the impressive Milne then made a mess of Paul van Meekeren’s stumps as the innings was terminated with seven balls unused.
Managing to deliver what Somerset could not, Joe Denly and Daniel Bell-Drummond both cleared the boundary rope in an opening stand of 40 that served to stamp Kent’s authority.
Any anxiety induced by the dismissals of Bell-Drummond and Sam Northeast, who succumbed in quick succession to Gregory and van Meekeren respectively, was dispelled by the arrival of England international Billings, who scored at better than a run a ball from the outset.
But Somerset stuck to their task and the introduction of Groenewald saw Denly hole out to deep mid-wicket for 33, leaving the visitors needing a further 77 from 60 balls with seven wickets in hand.
Veteran Darren Stevens offered a return catch to van der Merve to give Somerset renewed hope, but Billings batted with supreme assurance throughout a measured innings that yielded 3 fours and 3 sixes and helped keep the required rate in check.
Billings brought up his 50 in the grand manner, clearing the rope at Groenewald’s expense as Kent cruised to victory in a must-win match ahead of the final group games at Chelmsford on Thursday and Canterbury on Friday.