Maxwell adds to Kent's problems
Hampshire 138 for 4 (Maxwell 66*) beat Hampshire 135 for 6 (Stevens 60)
A stroll around Canterbury evokes many famous Kent names; such luminaries as Woolley, Cowdrey, Ames. They would, no doubt, have been perplexed at the notion that the very financial well being of the county would be so dependent on Twenty20 cricket.
But dependent they are, with chairman George Kennedy saying: "The only way we can really make money is by packing in Twenty20." As such, he advocates a return to last season's 16-game group stage. The reduction from 16 to 10 fixtures this season has ended the unsatisfactory flabby feel of the tournament, but does leave counties more vulnerable than ever to the weather. Although Kent insure their fixtures, Kennedy still estimates that the abandonment of their game against Sussex two weeks ago deprived them of at least £10,000.
Despite earlier concern, the game with Hampshire was unaffected by the weather. It was marketed as a family day, meaning the bouncy castle was out in force, while later home games are being promoted as boys' and girls' nights out. But the over-reliance on T20 for finances is dangerous. A glance at Canterbury, with various building works unavoidable, shows the emphasis on improving revenue-generation through other means, like conference facilities. Against Hampshire, the Bacardi Group hired out the Harris Room.
Fortunately, the cricket provided ample entertainment without need to resort to alcohol. Belligerent hitting from Australian Glenn Maxwell overhauled Hampshire's target of 136, and atoned for their defeat against Kent on Friday evening. Having earlier claimed two wickets, Maxwell struck an unbeaten 66 in a 32-ball innings oozing with raw power. His innings rescued a run chase that, at 59 for 4 in the 12th over, would not have inspired Hampshire confidence that it would bring them their first t20 victory of the season.
Ultimately Maxwell's sequence of 6-6-4-6 from the previously impressive James Tredwell proved decisive. Two straight sixes - the first one caught by Sam Northeast as he ran over the boundary - were followed by a reverse swept four and a six over extra cover.
But, amidst Maxwell's total of six sixes and five fours, it was a shot that only earned a single that was most memorable. Having lofted Azhar Mahmood over the midwicket boundary, he barely bothered running. However, he had reckoned without Adam Ball's intervention, who brilliantly parried the ball back over the boundary to limit Maxwell to one.
The incident prompted a discussion of the Laws with Hampshire captain Dimitri Mascarenhas entering the field visibly angry in protest. When Ball made his leap he was already past the rope, meaning the six should technically have stood. Maxwell may have been bemused but he was unperturbed and promptly smashed his next ball for six.
That Maxwell had enough of a target to showcase the talent that earned him an IPL contract with Delhi Daredevils was almost exclusively down to Darren Stevens. After narrowly denying Mascarenhas a hat trick when he entered at 12 for 2 in the third over, Stevens allowed himself time to build his innings.
At 56 for 3 in the 12th over, Kent were going nowhere fast. Belatedly, Stevens highlighted his clean-hitting ability with consecutive sixes off Sean Ervine over square leg and long-off. But his 60 received inadequate support: Azhar Mahmood's 21 was the second-highest score, although Matt Coles contributed a useful 14.
Recognising the nagging wicket-to-wicket qualities that brought Mascarenhas 2 for 14 on a slow wicket, Kent opened with two men of similar styles. With Geraint Jones standing up, Mark Davies and Stevens went for a combined 39 from their eight overs, with Davies claiming Michael Carberry with an athletic caught-and-bowled.
When a brilliant catch by Jones accounted for Neil McKenzie, and Jimmy Adams was bowled by Tredwell for 31, Kent, despite being hindered by Mahmood's injury, were narrow favourites for victory.
Maxwell's stunning intervention, completed when he smeared Mahmood for consecutive boundaries to secure victory with ten balls to spare, ended such hopes. Rather surprisingly, it was his first T20 half-century, but it is unlikely to be his last.