Kuhn's prolific season adds to Somerset unease
Kent 163 for 2 (Kuhn 67*, Bell-Drummond 58) beat Somerset 159 for 6 (Hildreth 57, Abell 36, Brathwaite 4-21) by eight wickets
Heino Kuhn's exceptional season with the bat continued at Taunton, as his unbeaten 67 helped Kent cruise to a ninth successive T20 win against Somerset.
Kuhn, the top scorer in this year's Royal London Cup with 696 runs, put on 101 for the second wicket with Daniel Bell-Drummond as Somerset's bowlers floundered in the baking heat.
It could all have been so different for Somerset, who were well-placed at 120 for 4 with five overs remaining after being put in to bat. But it was the two sides' overseas players altered the complexion of the game in the space of those last five overs: Carlos Brathwaite - who took 4 for 21 - and Adam Milne proved their immense worth as death bowlers; Corey Anderson struggled to find any sort of timing in his scratchy stay at the crease as Somerset scrambled to a below-par 159 for 6.
In reply, Lewis Gregory rang the changes; the first 11 overs of the chase were one-over spells, as he tried everything to stop Kent's top-order batsmen from settling. But Kuhn and Bell-Drummond - who now has 386 runs at a shade over 55 in T20s against Somerset - were untroubled. They bludgeoned a hundred partnership in under ten overs to put Kent in complete control.
After snatching an undeserved victory at the Oval on Friday night, Kent completely outplayed Somerset. Joe Denly, an unlikely hero with the ball against Surrey, again opened the bowling with his legspin, and instantly struck; he removed Johann Myburgh after just four balls.
Steve Davies and Peter Trego took apart Gloucestershire's attack two nights ago, but both fell to Brathwaite after slow starts. Davies heaved to short mid-wicket, before Trego's attempt at a deft touch past fine leg left his middle stump cartwheeling. Somerset had lost three wickets in the powerplay; 67% of teams that do that go on to lose.
Going forward, they should consider using Gregory as a pinch-hitter again. In last year's competition, his strike-rate of 163.2 in the Powerplay was higher than that of Jason Roy, Brendon McCullum, and David Willey.
Meanwhile, Myburgh is a rare type of batsman, in that his strike-rate increases after the first six overs; it seems strange to waste Powerplay deliveries on him while Gregory - with his ability to hit boundaries from ball one - bats at No 7.
With the field back, James Hildreth and Tom Abell began to rebuild, and hit Kent's spinners, Imran Qayyum and Denly, out of the attack. After the pair had stroked their way to 50 in just 5.2 overs, Sam Billings had a decision to make. Surprisingly, he went for Brathwaite, a man whose worth as a T20 bowler revolves around his ability at the death.
The gamble paid off. Abell flirted outside his off stump, blocked, and then finally took the attack to Brathwaite. But his timing was awry, and Alex Blake held on at long-on. Brathwaite was ecstatic, and Billings' call had changed the innings' momentum.
Then came Anderson. His 81 not out on Somerset debut at the Oval, one year ago tomorrow, was one of the innings of last season, but since then he has played only seven T20s. That much was evident here, as he struggled desperately to find the boundary, all the while eating up balls as the destructive Roelof van der Merwe - surely batting too low at number eight - sat waiting in the dugout.
The run chase was unlikely to pose many problems, even on a used pitch, and so it proved. Bell-Drummond and Kuhn barely went past second gear, as they benefited from some wayward bowling and uncharacteristically slack fielding.
While Kent's remarkable season across formats continues, Somerset have a few tough questions to answer. This game broke the run of 21 consecutive sell-outs in T20s at Taunton, and while Somerset will not thank the ECB for scheduling two home games in three days, their lack of a second overseas player despite an increase in ticket prices - the cheapest adult ticket on the gate was GBP £30 - leaves them with a point to prove in this year's competition.