By Connor Steel
HAMPSHIRE HAWKS’ extended their winning streak in the Vitality Blast to five successive matches as they hosted Kent Spitfires at the Ageas Bowl on Friday night; thrashing the reigning champions by fifty four runs in front of a large Southampton crowd. It was the Spitfires’ seventh defeat from nine games in the popular competition, with a century from James Vince crowning an excellent all-round performance that sees the Hawks now in prime position for a quarter final spot in the table with five games left to play in the group.
Choosing to bowl under temperatures close to thirty degrees, Kent made a dream start as they took a wicket within the fourth over after restricting scoring opportunities; Ben McDermott looping his shot up into the area to be caught off Grant Stewart to leave Hampshire on 11-1. And the Spitfires continued to limit a quick flow of runs with Matthew Queen proving difficult to get away, Tom Prest and Vince moving the scores to 32-1 at the end of the powerplay following some quick running alongside the odd boundary as the batters started slowly.
With more space the Hampshire pair suddenly began to accelerate the run rate, scoring twelve in the 7th and hitting Stewart’s third over for 25 runs just ten minutes later; Prest starting with a slog-swept maximum before Vince rounded it off with a six, six, four combination. Reaching 77-1 off ten overs the pair continued to smash the boundaries as they hit the 100 mark in the twelfth, both batsmen marking their individual half-tons off thirty-four balls apiece the following over. The partnership continued to 128 as Vince hit another 17 off a Qais Ahmad over before the bowler got the 2nd wicket to make it 139-2; seeing Prest’s skier caught by the backtracking Sam Billings to see the young batsman dismissed for 52 runs consisting of seven boundaries.
Vince continued his boundary spree as he added his second fifty off just 19 balls, including three maximums to bring up his century off just 53 balls. But the captain was then dismissed misjudging a shot and was then caught by Fredrick Klaassen off Stewart, departing to a loud standing ovation after hitting 100 runs including fourteen boundaries. This left the scores on 181-3 with Joe Weather (26*) and Ross Whitely (23*); the new pair hitting forty runs from the final ten and 30 from the last over as the latter hit three straight sixes. And this big-hitting display meant the Hawks ended their innings on 221-3 with an imposing Kent Spitfires target set.
The away response started disastrously for Kent as they were reduced to 16-2 in just the 3rd over; Dawson removing Daniel Bell-Drummond (4) and Nathan Ellis seeing Jordan Cox caught for six in quick succession. And just after the powerplay it soon got worse for the Spitfires as they struggled to keep in touch with the required run rate, seeing English international Billings bowled by a yorker from James Fuller to depart for twelve runs; meaning they were reduced to 50-3 at the start of the ninth over following a slow-paced start.
Opener Joe Denly was however still at the crease for Kent and joined together with Alex Blake at the crease, a flurry of maximums pushing them past the hundred mark with a 54 run partnership in just over five overs. But this still wasn’t enough as the required run rate accelerated to over twelve an over and wickets began to fall quickly as Denly holed out a Mason Crane delivery to depart for 49 off 37 balls including three sixes; Blake smashing four maximums in his 44 off twenty-six balls before himself being caught in the deep off Crane to leave his side on 139-5 and struggling with four overs left to bat as the floodlights began to shine.
The sixth wicket fell just six balls later as moments after hitting a boundary George Linde was caught by a diving Weatherley to become Chris Wood’s first victim, the second coming after six boundaries from Jack Leaning before he was bowled for thirty five off 20 deliveries. This seventh wicket left the Spitfires on 164-7 going into the final over with victory already secured, but Ellis added some gloss with a tight six deliveries yielding just three runs and another wicket; catching Ahmed off his own bowling to end the Spitfires’ innings.
The huge victory and two points, alongside a positive net run-rate, sees Hampshire leapfrog Gloucestershire into fourth place in the South Group; with other results going their way on Friday evening. However Sunday afternoon (June 19) will see their biggest threat to their winning run as they play Surrey at the Ageas Bowl with a 2:30pm, before travelling to Somerset away on Thursday night in Taunton (7:05pm). The Hawks’ third Blast game will see them also play Gloucestershire on Friday evening in a busy week that could determine their competition hopes, before returning to first class action versus Essex next Sunday morning (June 26).
PICTURED BY HAMPSHIRE CRICKET: Tom Prest and James Vince reach a crucial landmark in partnership.