Captain’s century steers side to victory
AN unbeaten century by captain Michael Klinger inspired Gloucestershire to a five-run Vitality Blast win over Kent in Canterbury.
The 35-year-old plundered nine fours and four sixes in his 102 not out that helped the visitors – who have not lost a T20 game against Kent since July 2016 – post an impressive 180 for three under the lights at The Spitfire Ground, St Lawrence.
Kent fielded first after winning the toss and sprang an immediate surprise by opening the bowling with off-spinner, Alex Blake. The ploy worked wonders as Gloucestershire garnered only two off the over. Fred Klaassen’s first ball of the night was hooked over the ropes at long leg by Klinger, then Miles Hammond opened his boundary account with a pull to square leg as the Kentish left-armer struggled.
With the powerplay complete, Blake returned for a second respectable over then, with 70 on the board, left-arm spinner Imran Qayyum had Hammond caught on the deep cover ropes.
Klinger moved to his 34th short-form 50 from 35 balls with six fours and a six before Blake had James Bracey held at deep mid-wicket to complete an excellent stint of 4-0-17-1 without conceding a boundary.
Qayyum accounted for Ian Cockbain, run out when backing up to Klinger’s drive as the bowler collected the ball, span around and whipped off the bails. Qayyum finished with one for 24. Jack Taylor should have departed for eight only for Zak Crawley to down a chance off Daniel Bell-drummond, whose next delivery was heaved for six by Klinger as 23 came off the over. Taylor was handed another life on 17 when Blake downed a low chance, before Klinger drove the final delivery of the innings for a ninth four and a 65-ball century with four sixes. Kent paceman Mitchell Claydon, finished with nought for 45.
In pursuit of 181 at an asking rate of 9.05 an over. Within 19 balls, BellDrummond drove on the up to cover against Andrew Tye then Chris Liddle had Zak Crawley caught off a skier at mid-wicket to make it 21 for two. Faf du Plessis, the South Africa captain making his Kent debut, was dropped on 18 as the Spitfires mustered 51 at the end of the powerplay. Du Plessis and third-wicket partner Sam Billings found it difficult to hit boundaries until Billings broke the shackles by heaving six over the lime tree against Graeme van Buuren.
At the half-way stage Kent had matched Gloucestershire’s 81 after 10 overs, albeit for the loss of one more wicket. Du Plessis was dropped again on 42 when Tye downed a low chance as Kent posted their 100 in the 12th over with the asking rate at 9.75 an over.
Du Plessis reached a 35-ball 50 with his seventh four and Billings scored his first 50 of the competition from 37 balls, but five runs later he holed out in the deep off Ryan Higgins to bring the 122-run stand to an end.
Kent required 41 off the last five overs but Higgins and Tye sent down two tight overs to alter the equation to 32 from 18 balls when Heino Kuhn ran himself out. Blake hit 19 off eight balls before holing out to long off against Ryan Higgins and, when Du Plessis followed next ball for 60, Kent’s victory hopes ended.
Ryan Higgins took three wickets against Kent