Kent Spitfires beat Gloucestershire by seven wickets

17 June 2023

Daniel Bell-Drummond scored an unbeaten half century to guide Kent to a seven-wicket win over Gloucestershire in a one-sided Vitality Blast match at Bristol's Seat Unique Stadium.

The former England Lions opener hit 56 not out from 49 balls and shared in an unbroken match-winning stand of 61 with Jordan Cox, who contributed an unbeaten 31, as Kent chased down a target of 138 with three overs to spare to complete a T20 double over their South Group rivals.

Gloucestershire started well, advancing to 51-1 thanks to a brisk 30 from Miles Hammond, only to then lose nine wickets for 86 runs in a collapse which culminated in them being dismissed for 137 in 19.3 overs. 

Seamers Michael Hogan, Kane Richardson and Grant Stewart each claimed two wickets apiece, while off spinner Jack Leaning returned figures of 2-16 from four overs as Kent produced a coherent performance in the field, fully justifying the decision to bowl first.

Gloucestershire have now lost five of their eight matches in this format and only victory over fourth-placed Hampshire in Bristol on Tuesday will suffice to keep alive their outside hopes of making the knockout stages. Although Kent have now won three successive games, they also trail Hampshire by four points and have much ground to make up if they are to stage a late challenge.

Put into bat, Gloucestershire made the worst possible start, Grant Roelofsen pushing at the first ball of the innings, sent down by Fred Klaassen, and feathering a catch to Jack Leaning at slip. Apparently unperturbed by such an early setback, Hammond and Ben Wells set about redressing the balance in a hard-hitting second wicket alliance of 51 in five overs. 

But Kent quickly regained a stranglehold on proceedings, Richardson claiming two wickets in the space of three deliveries in the sixth over to nip any sustained recovery in the bud. He clean bowled a swinging Ben Wells for a run-a-ball 15 and then induced new batsman Ben Charlesworth to chance his arm and hole out to Tuwanda Muyeye at deep square leg without scoring as the home side completed the powerplay on 57-3.

Gloucestershire's plight deepened in the very next over, Ollie Price risking a quick single against Grant Stewart and being run out for five by Cox's rapid pick-up-and-throw from mid-on, while Hammond fell in the eighth, caught at the wicket by Sam Billings off the bowling of off spinner Leaning. Gloucestershire's new captain had raised 30 from 20 balls, with 5 fours and a six, and at the point of his departure, the hosts were 64-5, having surrendered four wickets in just 15 balls.

Leaning struck again in the tenth, Graeme van Buuren hoisting him straight to Cox at long-off as Gloucestershire further subsided to 73-6 at the halfway stage. Slow left armer George Linde then conceded just 15 runs in 18 balls from the Bristol Pavilion End as Tom Price and Zafar, charged with the not inconsiderable task of rebuilding, were effectively frustrated by spin during the crucial middle overs.

Demonstrating necessary urgency under duress, Zafar hit Leaning back down the ground for six in the 14th over in a quest to re-ignite an innings which had lost it's way, while Tom Price was dropped on nine by Hogan at short fine leg off the bowling of Klaassen, a lapse that suggested a Gloucestershire recovery was still possible.

But the returning Hogan ended any chance of that, persuading Zafar to hole out to long-off for a 20-ball 25 and then removing Matt Taylor in identical fashion four balls later in the sixteenth to reduce the home side to 112-8. Tom Price skied Stewart to Billings and departed for 11, but Payne smashed 16 off nine balls in a last wicket stand of 23 with Smith, to at least give home supporters a glimmer of hope.

Further hope was forthcoming as Payne ran out Muyeye off his own bowling in the first over to subject the Kent reply to early pressure. When Tom Price held a smart return catch to dismiss Joe Denly for 11 and claim his maiden T20 wicket, the visitors were 38-2 in the sixth over and Gloucestershire's players were prepared to believe.

At the point where Kent required reassurance, captain Billings provided a necessary change of gear, plundering 15 runs from one Ollie Price over to set a tempo which quickly saw him catch-up Bell-Drummond and advance the score to 75-2 at the end of 10 overs.

By the time Wells ran out Billings for an 18-ball 28 to terminate a third wicket alliance of 39, the rate was almost down to a run a ball and Kent, with Bell-Drummond set, were handily placed. 

The progressive Cox picked up where Billings had left off and Hammond recalled the experienced Payne to bowl the fifteenth in a last-ditch attempt to turn the tide. But Cox helped himself to 10 runs off the over and Bell-Drummond went to 50 via 46 balls as Kent closed inexorably on their target.

Having played his part superbly well, Cox finished on 31 not out from 20 balls, with 4 fours and a six, while Bell-Drummond weighed in with a quartet of fours and a brace of sixes in an extremely well-paced innings.

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