By Connor Steel
HAMPSHIRE CRICKET were unable to reach their 2nd successive domestic knockout competition final after a three wicket defeat versus Kent at the Ageas Bowl on Tuesday; ending their big hopes of adding the Royal London One Day Cup to the Vitality Blast title won earlier this summer. But this tight semi-final defeat wasn’t for lack of trying from the hosts as they posted another score over three hundred including multiple fifties and took regular wickets in response; Darren Stevens turning the tides in the death overs with 84 unbeaten runs.
The hosts started brilliantly after being put into bat with Ben Brown and Nick Gubbins building a platform for their side against the new ball; scoring a fine unbeaten 106 runs in just nineteen overs to record their highest opening stand of the competition as the latter passed 50. But just as Hampshire were looking good they lost two quick wickets from the bowling of Hamidullah Qadri, who removed Brown (38) caught at deep point for a soft dismissal and Tom Prest (0) edging behind stumps within straight deliveries to leave the hosts on 106-2.
Aneurin Donald fended off the hat trick ball and combined within a good 40 run stand alongside Gubbins, the pair showing steady control in a 9-over spell before the captain was removed at slip for 75 by Joe Denly. The former hit an one-per-ball 54 including eight long boundaries to reach his second successive half ton before being dismissed LBW by Alex Blake’s straight delivery, whilst his newest strike partner Fletcha Middleton fell shortly afterwards for nineteen off just twenty-two balls as Kent sought quick inroads at 192-5 after 37 overs.
Felix Organ (54) and Toby Albert (45) then launched a counter attack on the away bowlers as they scored 84 runs from fifty-seven balls; featuring three huge maximums from the former to reach a wonderful half century with the latter providing valuable support. Neither were unable to stay the course as they were dismissed by Nathan Gilchrist and Grant Stewart respectively to leave home scores on 292-7, before Ian Holland (6) was run out and Scott Currie (10) was caught at point for their ninth fallen wicket, Hampshire finishing for 310-9.
In response Kent started with a stutter in their opening six overs as they were reduced to 20-2; openers Joey Evison (0) edging to second slip off Holland and Ben Compton (2) falling in similar fashion off John Turner 4 overs later. The two wickets brought Ollie Robinson together alongside Denly at the crease, the pair scoring 48 welcomed runs including some glorious shots against the new ball bowlers following a cautious start; this partnership ending when the latter edged behind cutting off Currie’s swinging delivery for 68-3 after 14 overs.
Momentum soon swung towards Kent as Robinson (95) and Harry Finch (52) substantially chipped away at their target; both hitting individual half centuries through well-placed shots on a quick outfield as they put on 108 in seventeen overs featuring multiple boundaries and the single maximum. But Hampshire got a reward for their patience as Jack Campbell came into the attack; having the former caught in the mid-wicket regions and then bowling the latter in his following over to help reduce the visiting team to 181-5 within the 33rd over.
Stevens, in at number seven, then blitzed the home bowlers with an onslaught of powerful hitting; reaching a 50 in just fifty deliveries before further accelerating. He slapped one of his fourteen boundaries for four from a no-ball before three maximums silenced the home crowds as he progressed to eighty four not out from 63 deliveries. Down the other end Stewart (14) and Harry Podmore (10) provided support but ultimately paid the second fiddle to the 46-year old batter; Kent reaching their target with 6 balls remaining of their total innings.
Following their victory Kent will play Lancashire in the One-Day Final, which will be played at Trent Bridge on September 17 (11am start); their second competition final in five years. But for Hampshire they must turn this heart-break into momentum as they return to County Championship action after a long seven-week absence from red ball action. James Vince’s team will host Northamptonshire at the Ageas Bowl from Monday, before they end the season with a home clash versus Kent on September 20 and trip to Warwickshire six days later.
PICTURED BY HAMPSHIRE CRICKET (GETTY IMAGES): Multiple half centuries and partnerships finish in loss at the Ageas Bowl as Kent seal semi-final victory with Darren Stevens the hero, hitting 84 runs not out.