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Kent Spitfires (165-9) lost to Hampshire Hawks (166-7) by three wickets in Vitality Blast at Southampton

Kent suffered their first defeat of this summer’s Vitality Blast after losing a tight contest at Hampshire Hawks on Sunday.

Spitfires were unable to defend their total of 165-9 despite three wickets for Joey Evison.

Sam Billings - top-scored for Kent Spitfires with 43 on Sunday. Picture: Keith Gillard
Sam Billings - top-scored for Kent Spitfires with 43 on Sunday. Picture: Keith Gillard

Spitfires captain Sam Billings won the toss and opted to have first use of the track, which was also used on Thursday night when Surrey beat the Hawks by five wickets.

Hampshire limped to 23-3 in the fifth over on that occasion but there was no such struggle for Kent in the powerplay this time around.

Chris Wood conceded only five runs in his first two overs - including eight dots to Daniel Bell-Drummond - but the Spitfires’ explosive opening pair of Bell-Drummond and Zak Crawley were soon into their stride.

Bell-Drummond hit a straight six off Michael Neser while both took a liking to John Turner, whose first over went for 15.

The 50-run partnership came up in the fifth over as Bell-Drummond showed exquisite timing to send Neser to all parts of the Rose Bowl, with three more boundaries.

Bell-Drummond departed for 42 from 27 balls when he skied a high return catch to James Fuller, which gave the bowler plenty of thinking time.

Tawanda Muyeye was trapped in front first ball to a full Fuller delivery and Kent ended the powerplay on 59-2.

Crawley was bowled by Benny Howell for 20 off 15 balls in the ninth over to leave Kent on 71-3.

Billings used his feet to good effect to hit Liam Dawson for a straight six as they got the scoreboard moving again, taking 14 off the over, before another Billings boundary at the end of the 12th over brought up the Kent hundred.

Dawson switched ends and nearly had Joe Denly stumped on 11, but wicketkeeper Ben McDermott was unable to gather down the leg side.

Another let-off quickly followed for Denly as he was spilled at third man on 13 when attempting a scoop shot off Turner, Billings showing him how to do it the next ball by hitting it to the boundary, bringing up the fifty partnership in the process.

The reverse sweep off Dawson proved Billings’ downfall as he succeeded in only giving McDermott the chance to remove him for 43 off 30 balls - leaving Kent 131-4 in the 16th over.

It was two wickets in five balls as Denly then stroked Dawson (2-28) straight to Fuller at long-off, departing for 18.

An ambitious reverse sweep to Howell (2-27) proved Marcus O’Riordan’s downfall in the next over for two and Kent - well placed for a late surge - had lost three wickets for six runs in 10 balls.

Beyers Swanepoel looped Wood to Toby Albert at backward point for two before Grant Stewart hooked Turner for six but perished two balls later to the same shot

Wood trapped Xavier Bartlett in front for one in the final over, Matt Parkinson and Evison taking the total to 165-9 despite Evison driving the penultimate ball of the innings straight against the unfortunate Parkinson at the other end.

Hawks openers McDermott and James Vince reached 42-0 in the powerplay with few alarms.

McDermott pulled Evison’s first ball at the start of the eighth over for six to bring up the Hawks’ 50 but he then hold out to an excellent catch by Crawley at deep mid-wicket for 25 off 20 balls.

Evison bowled Nick Gubbins for a three-ball duck and Hampshire had been pegged back to 53-2 by the end of the eighth over.

With Parkinson giving nothing away, Hampshire reached the halfway stage on 69-2, needing 97 more runs to win.

Vince (35 from 34 balls) was then bowled by Evison, whose third wicket left the hosts 78-3 in the 12th over. Parkinson then had Albert caught reverse sweeping by Stewart for five.

Together, Parkinson and Evison had wrestled control with eight overs in tandem yielding figures of 1-21 and 3-31, respectively. Hampshire needed 71 off the last six overs.

Plenty rested on the shoulders of Joe Weatherley and his deft touch behind square brought up the hundred in the 15th over.

Boundaries in each of the next three overs kept Hampshire in with a shout, the equation reduced to 42 from 18 balls.

Fuller hit Swanepoel (1-36) for three successive straight sixes to bring the home crowd to life, each maximum being greeted with an even bigger roar.

But they were silenced when a short ball from Swanepoel was glanced behind by Fuller to depart for 30 off just 16 balls, his team needing 24 off 14 balls.

Bartlett’s first ball of the penultimate over was driven straight for four by Weatherley but the Australian responded well and had the dangerous Weatherley caught by the safe hands of Crawley at long-on for 49.

Hawks needed 16 off eight balls as Dawson strode out but Howell ensured they needed just nine off the final over by hitting Bartlett’s (1-37) final delivery straight down the ground for six.

After Dawson took a single, Howell was caught at deep mid-wicket by Crawley for nine. Hampshire were 158-7, needing eight off the last four balls.

After a scampered single, Dawson hooked Stewart for six and they duly hit a single off the penultimate ball to complete a dramatic win, Evison dropping an extremely tough chance.

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