Gloucestershire v Kent, Vitality Blast, South Group, Bristol July 11, 2018

Ryan Higgins holds his nerve as Kent fail to hit last-ball six

Jack Taylor gets on to the front foot © Getty Images

Gloucestershire 184 for 7 (Taylor 42*, Brathwaite 2-30) beat Kent 179 for 8 (Kuhn 44, Higgins 2-34) by five runs
Scorecard

If Kent were under any illusions about the difficulty of their run chase at Bristol, they were shattered within nine balls. Joe Denly, regularly acclaimed with five hundreds bagged across all formats this season, pushed forward to the left-arm spinner Graeme van Buuren, the ball gripped and turned to hit off stump. Their target of 185 seemed a speck on the horizon.

To trim that target to six to win from the last ball was a redoubtable effort in an excellent game, but it was to no avail. Kent's No. 10 Mitch Claydon swung wildly enough for the bat to escape his grasp, but the ball passed by harmlessly and Gloucestershire claimed a five-run win. Kent are fancied in the South Group, Gloucestershire are not, but both counties now have two wins in three.

You have to hand it to Gloucestershire. Benny Howell, their great innovator, has a hamstring injury, and Andrew Tye, who was the leading wicket-taker in the IPL, has been held back a while by Cricket Australia for workload reasons, and was limited to talking on the boundary edge about how a secret new delivery was in production.

Such talk was once limited to Shane Warne, the great legspinner, who was so full of bluff about his repertoire that he might easily have claimed a new variation that detoured twice through the burger fan while playing the tune of Advance Australia Fair. Now, in T20, quick bowlers claim the same.

The slow, grippy wicket was succour for Gloucestershire's unsung medium-pacers against a highly-rated batting line-up. Heino Kuhn held the innings together for 44 from 33 balls until he chipped back Noema-Barnett's knuckle ball - the first delivery he had bowled, at a man well set. Ryan Higgins cut his pace to 60mph and was obligingly slapped to deep cover; Higgins struck again when Alex Blake chipped weakly to short extra.

Carlos Brathwaite, the man who once struck Ben Stokes for three successive sixes in the last over to win a World Twenty20 title, managed two in five balls, bowled as he pushed forward to Matt Taylor with great sobriety.

The angriest exit, though, came from Sam Billings, as he seeks to make the transition from dressing room attendant to exhilarating cricketer. He looked attuned to the task, his first 10 balls bringing 24, including three imperious sixes, then Tom Smith, another left-arm spinner, held one back, Billings swung and missed and stalked from the field, swinging his fist in self-admonishment. Kent lacked the decisive innings.

Gloucestershire's victory was just about secured when Higgins - with 30 needed from 14 balls - stopped Sean Dickson's return drive, swivelled and throw the stumps down at the non-striker's end. Nineteen were needed off the last over, but Higgins began with a wide then conceded two leg-side boundaries to Adam Milne. Dickson was run out by Jack Taylor's throw from long on from the penultimate ball, meaning that Claydon - not Dickson, was charged with attempting the last-ball six.

Tension for the last ball? Not when half the country had been ridiculously nervous all day over the approaching World Cup semi-final in Moscow. More the sort of day for someone to tell Higgins: "Look, it's not penalties, mate. Get it won." And so he did.

On an old, ugly surface, Gloucestershire had batted ugly to good effect. Kieran Noema-Barnett (31 from 15 balls) and Jack Taylor (42 not out from 23) are hardly the most stylish batsman in the land, but Noema-Barnett slugged it down the ground, Taylor hauled through midwicket and an innings that might have faltered from 82 for 4 at midway instead came to rest with a challenging total on the board.

Denly's leg spin has also found unparalleled success this season - two more victims as Michael Klinger confidently deposited him to long-on and Ian Cockbain was bowled pulling - but surprisingly Imran Qayyum's slow left arm was seen for only one over. Kent got a bonus wicket when Gareth Roderick was lbw to Calum Haggett, trying to switch hit a yorker, not the greatest shot selection admittedly, but the ball struck him well outside the line.

It was a strange afternoon, the Blast at its least atmospheric (watch out for its detractors using this one as anti-marketing video). It had been brought forward to a 3pm start because of England's presence in the World Cup semi-final at 7pm and the crowd was sparse at the Brightside Ground - appropriately named for the Gloucestershire treasurer because looking on the bright side was necessary on a day like this.

Joe Root, England's Test captain, had said that he was more nervous about the football than playing cricket, knowing that an entire nation would nod wisely rather than berate him for not concentrating on the task in hand. Gloucestershire's win was all done and dusted in slightly less than three hours, leaving time not just for the match but the build-up. These days it can take IPL nearer to four. Perhaps the best thing India can do to remember how to quicken their T20 overrate is to improve their football?

David Hopps is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps

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