Jordan Cox smashed a career-best 94 to lead defending Champions Kent Spitfires to an emphatic 32-run Vitality Blast victory over last season’s runners-up, Somerset, at Taunton.
The visitors posted 202 for five after losing the toss on an evening of bright sunshine, 21-year-old Cox leading the way with a superb 94 off 47 balls, including 6 sixes and 3 fours, and Joe Denly contributing 41. Somerset could manage only 170 for nine in reply, skipper Tom Abell top-scoring with 43 and Ben Green making 40.
It was the Spitfire’s second group victory in eight games and a second defeat for the home side in seven.
Kent made a scratchy start in excellent batting conditions, failing to score a boundary off the first three overs, which cost just 13 runs.
Craig Overton’s introduction to the attack saw Denly straight drive his first ball for four and Tawanda Muyeye scoop a six before being caught next ball at extra cover for ten.
Off the following delivery Grant Stewart miscued a catch to cover and at the end of the fourth over the Spitfires were 25 for two.
That became 46 for two by the end of the six-over powerplay. Denly hit sixes over long-on off first Roelof van der Merwe and then Josh Davey before Cox claimed his first maximum in the 12th over, bowled by Overton, with a pull from outside off stump over deep square.
Denly fell in the same over, having faced 36 balls, caught at deep mid-wicket. But Cox was starting to time the ball sweetly and moved to a 29-ball half century.
Sam Billings was bowled aiming to reverse sweep van der Merwe, but Cox was dropped on 53 by Lewis Gregory at mid-off, Green being the unlucky bowler.
Alex Blake was also dropped in contributing 17, with 2 sixes, Overton making amends for the error by pouching him at wide long-on off Davey.
After 17 overs, Kent looked short of par on 148 for five. But Cox then hit 2 sixes off Davey and the same over, which cost 24, saw George Linde clear the ropes before collecting another boundary.
The inspired Cox then hit 3 sixes in the same Green over to move within sight of a century. But the experienced Peter Siddle held his nerve to concede only five in a final over that saw the Spitfires top-scorer run-out attempting to keep the strike with a two to fine leg.
Somerset’s reply got off to a poor start when Will Smeed was bowled by Linde, but out marched Rilee Rossouw to smite two of the next three balls for six.
Tom Banton hit successive fours off Fred Klaassen in the third over, only to edge a catch behind off the final delivery to leave his side 25 for two. With only two runs added, off-spinner Jack Leaning bowled Rossouw, aiming a huge heave over the leg-side.
Abell reverse swept Leaning for four and six to take Somerset to 44 for three at the end of the powerplay. But Tom Lammonby then fell to the same shot, pinned lbw by Qais Ahmad.
Lewis Gregory dispatched the leg-spinner for two maximums before top-edging a catch to wicketkeeper Billings off Stewart and at halfway Somerset were 79 for five.
When Abell top-edged a pull off Klaassen to be caught at deep square and van der Merwe fell to a Billings catch, the hosts were in dire straits.
There was a moment of controversy when Green, on 25, appeared to be caught on the deep cover boundary by Leaning off Milnes, but the umpires judged his foot had touched the rope.
It mattered little as, despite Green’s best efforts, Kent’s bowlers closed out the game for a comfortable success.
Kent match-winner Jordan Cox said: “The batting unit has been pretty short of runs up to now, but it was my chance this evening to step up and it’s what you want to do for the team.
“To get a win against these boys in their back yard is very pleasing. It was like Finals Day here tonight. I got off to a decent start and then kept on going, which I was really happy about.
“Our bowlers took wickets at key times. We were a bit nervous at the halfway stage, but they did an amazing job for us.”