Kent 159 for 6 (Bell-Drummond 62, Denly 31, Afridi 4 for 26) beat Hampshire 154 for 4 (Alsop 43*, Vince 39, Bailey 41) by five runs
England Lions star Bell-Drummond carefully hit 62 to help the visitors reach 159 for six on a slow track.
Hampshire faltered in the second half of the innings to fall short. They needed 37 from 28 balls when Australian George Bailey was the third wicket to fall. Liam Dawson managed 5 from 9 balls and No. 3 Tom Alsop was left high and dry with 43 from 41 balls with only two boundaries.
Hampshire’s captain James Vince expressed his disappointment at a victory that eluded his side: “For three quarters of the game we did better than them but we struggled to find the boundary in the second half of our innings,” he said. “We needed 72 from 10 overs with eight wickets in hand – it was a bit of a mess up but we have to move on for Friday.”
He defended the decision not to push Shahid Afridi up the order to No 6, saying: “Afridi hasn’t really hit it miles yet this season and McManus has been in really good touch. We didn’t lose a wicket for a while so no one went in and we left too much to do in the back end. In hindsight we would have liked to win that with an over to spare.”
Vince and Rilee Rossouw had got Hampshire off to a quick start in their quest to reach 160. Skipper Vince in particular took a fancy to Mitchell Clayton, who he dispatched for the match’s first six over cover in the fourth over.
But the fast bowler hit back three balls later as Rossouw picked out Alex Blake at mid-on to break the 43-run opening partnership. Vince departed to the final ball of the powerplay as he was yorked by former teammate Matt Coles – as Hampshire sped to 60 in the opening six overs.
Spin pair Imran Qayyum and James Tredwell put the brakes on Hampshire’s charge with tight middle overs. And from then on the hosts struggled, Bailey and Alsop neatly added 40 to take their side to 28 runs from victory before the Australian chipped a paddle sweep to short fine leg for a season best 41.
Liam Dawson then picked out Blake on the long on boundary to leave his side needing 16 from the final over. But Claydon brilliantly defended the last six balls, as he only went for 10, to lift Kent’s hopes of reaching the quarter-finals.
Earlier, Kent captain Sam Northeast won the toss and decided to bat on a grubby track under thin grey clouds.
Joe Denly and Bell-Drummond set off at an understated rate, which set the tone for the innings. Denly cracked back-to-back fours off Chris Wood in the second over, two of just 12 boundaries in the Kent total, as they reached 47 by the end of the Powerplay. Mason Crane broke the 65-run opening stand when he bowled Denly with a googly.
Skipper Northeast was bowled for a quick 10 and Sam Billings picked out Crane on the long on boundary as Afridi showed his class by going on to take four wickets.
England Lions star Bell-Drummond continued to tick the score along effortlessly and reached a 33-ball fifty. Afridi was keeping things tight at the other end but waited until his final over to blow the visitors away by snatching two wickets in two balls.
James Neesham top edged a sweep to short third man and Bell-Drummond was brilliant caught by a sliding Dawson on the cover boundary – leaving Afridi with his third best Hampshire T20 figures of 4 for 26.
Alex Blake and Darren Stevens struck a quick 39 to lift Kent to 159 although the latter was caught at mid-off at the final ball as Kyle Abbott deceived him with a slower ball – but the score was enough.