Adam Milne was the hero with bat and ball as south group leaders Kent Spitfires made it six wins from seven games in the Vitality Blast with a thrilling four-wicket victory, with just one ball to spare, in a tense, low-scoring contest against Hampshire at Beckenham.
When Heino Kuhn hit a Kyle Abbott full toss straight to extra cover from the first ball of the final over, with Kent needing 10 runs to overhaul Hampshire’s 135 all out, it seemed as if the visitors were favourites to complete a four successive win of their own and a third in four days.
But New Zealand fast bowler Milne, who had earlier taken 3 for 21 to help to restrict Hampshire’s total to manageable proportions on a sluggish surface, strode in to loft his first ball for two into the legside, strike his second ball over extra cover for four and then complete another two for a drive to long on.
Adding to the drama was the sight of non-striker Grant Stewart pulling a hamstring as he raced back for two and dived for the crease at the bowler’s end, and then having to be helped from the field in clear distress.
But, with only two runs now being required off the last two balls, and Milne crucially retaining the strike due to Stewart’s bravery, the Kiwi top-edged a pull at Abbott’s penultimate delivery over short third man for another four to finish on 12 not out from only four balls faced.
As a mark of how hard strokeplay was, Kuhn top-scored for Kent with a well-judged 41 from 33 balls while James Vince’s 44 for Hampshire took him 47 balls, with only two fours.
Milne was one of four Kent bowlers to record outstanding figures, which offset their fifth bowler going for a total of 56 runs from four overs. He helped to reduce Hampshire to 29 for three early on and also claimed two late wickets while Hardus Viljeon took 3 for 15, Stewart 2 for 23 and Mohammad Nabi 1 for 17 in his four skilful overs of off spin.
Kent’s reply began with five quality boundaries from Daniel Bell-Drummond but he skied the last ball of the third over to depart for 21 and Ollie Robinson was smartly stumped for 5 by Lewis McManus when he drove over a near-yorker from off spinner Brad Taylor.
Taylor then ran out Zak Crawley for 22, hitting the bowler’s stumps on the turn after sprinting across the pitch to field when Kuhn turned down a short single into the legside off his own bowling and Crawley could not regain his ground.
Nabi made 14 before carving Kyle Abbott to deep cover in the 15th over, and Kuhn and Alex Blake added 32 before the left-handed Blake, on 18 and having pulled Liam Dawson for six, lofted Chris Wood to long on from the first ball of the 19th over.
But Kuhn, and particularly Milne, were equal to an equation of 17 runs being needed from the last 11 balls when Blake fell.
After Hampshire had been asked to bat first, Rossouw hit the first two balls of the third over, from left arm seamer Fred Klaassen, for legside sixes but saw Aneurin Donald sky to mid off later in the over to go for 7.
Then, in the next over, Rossouw himself mishit to mid off when Viljeon replaced Milne.
Sam Northeast’s latest return to bat on his native Kentish soil was not a happy one, as he edged the pacy Milne to keeper Robinson on 1, and Dawson struggled for fluency in partnership with Vince as Hampshire’s fourth wicket pair could only add 33 in seven overs before Dawson pulled Stewart straight to deep square leg to go for 12.
At the halfway mark Hampshire were 58 for 3, and – despite sixes from Chris Morris off Klaassen and Stewart – they continued to find Kent’s bowlers difficult to attack.
Morris fell to Stewart for 17, caught at long on, but then came an extraordinary 15th over in which Klaassen bowled two high full tosses – the second of which meant he was withdrawn from the attack.
A first free hit had only cost Kent a single but now a second free hit, with Bell-Drummond employing his own medium pace to complete the over after himself starting with a no ball full toss, being struck for six over deep mid wicket by James Fuller.
Fuller also clubbed Bell-Drummond for four and, in all, 24 runs came from a nine-ball over and, suddenly, with five overs remaining, Hampshire had 110 on the board.
Milne and Nabi, however, restored order after Viljeon had removed Fuller for 17, caught upper-cutting to third man, with Nabi’s off spin accounting for McManus and Milne bowling both Taylor and Vince, who was ninth out.
In the end, Hampshire could not bat through their 20 overs, with Wood skying to long on off Viljeon with four balls of the innings remaining unused.
Player of the Match Adam Milne said: “We were pretty happy with the way we bowled, but we knew it would not be easy chasing because of a pitch that didn’t make run-scoring that straightforward.
“When I came in I just knew that I had to hit a couple of boundaries, and thankfully I did that and also got a couple of twos.
“I think it is a real positive for this team that we keep on finding a way to win. We haven’t really played an amazing game yet, and we’ve scrapped our way through matches.
“Of course, we’re really happy with the way we’ve started this competition but we’ve got another couple of tough away games to come later this week so we just want to keep on a roll.”
Credit: ECB Reporters’ Network