Howell, Klinger end Kent surge
Gloucestershire 157 for 1 (Klinger 69*, Cockbain 54*) beat Kent 156 for 6 (Bell-Drummond 31, Howell 3-18) by nine wickets
Gloucestershire's limited overs skipper Michael Klinger hit an unbeaten 69 to secure an emphatic nine-wicket win over NatWest T20 Blast south group leaders Kent in front of a 4,000 crowd in Beckenham. The simple chase was set-up after Benny Howell's miserly spell of 3 for 18.
Chasing Kent's modest total at an asking rate of 7.8 per over, the visitors romped home with 16 balls to spare to inflict Kent's first home defeat. Gloucestershire made an imperious start to their run chase through Kiwi Hamish Marshall and their in-form Aussie Klinger, who has scored 195 runs in his two T20 innings to date and is yet to be dismissed.
Fresh from scoring an unbeaten 126 on his season's competition debut against Essex, Klinger showed his class as early as the third over with a lofted cover drive that sailed over the ropes at deep-extra cover for six. Marshall then deposited a full one from Mitch Claydon back over the sightscreen for six, but flailed across the line to his next delivery to go for 19 and leave the visitors on 60 for 1 after the Powerplay.
In a bid to stem the flow of runs Kent used six bowlers within the opening 10 overs to no affect as Gloucestershire coasted to 98 for 1 at the mid-point. With no need to attempt risky shots, Klinger teamed up with third-wicket partner Ian Cockbain to add an unruffled, unbroken match-winning stand of 105 in 12.3 overs with Klinger posting a 37-ball 50 with five fours and a six. Cockbain also reached the milestone having faced the same number of deliveries.
Even the nous of Darren Stevens, Kent's most experienced T20 performer, failed to halt Gloucestershire's march as the visitors landed their third win in four starts with more than two overs in hand.
Having won the toss Kent, in the knowledge that the side batting first in Kent matches had won 9 times from the last 10 starts, made a circumspect start as Daniel Bell-Drummond and Sam Billings found timing hard to come by. England's new one-day keeper, Billings, was promoted to open after Joe Denly's late withdrawal with a side strain but, at 6 for 0 after two overs, had barely put bat to ball in anger
Billings changed all that in the third over when he marched down the pitch to swat James Fuller back over his head for the first boundary - a straight six more reminiscent of an Andy Murray two-handed forehand down the line than any strokes described in the MCC's coaching manual. Bell-Drummond also opened his boundary account with a maximum slog-sweeping left-arm spinner Tom Smith over midwicket as Kent reached 50 after five overs. But, with his score on 26, Billings yorked himself when advancing to Tom Smith to be stumped by Kent's former gloveman Geraint Jones.
From 54 for 1 at the end of the Powerplay, Kent slid to 84 for 4. Top-scorer Daniel Bell-Drummond holed out to long-on, Stevens' luckless run continued when he clipped to Dent on the ropes at deep mid-wicket then, three balls later, Howell bowled the competition's leading run scorer Sam Northeast for only 14 to finish his four-over stint with 3 for 18 and leave Kent in a disarray from which they could only limp to 156 for 6. It was nowhere near enough.
Afterwards Klinger summed up his side's comfortable nine-wicket triumph as a 'clinical effort'. He said: "To win so clinically against a top-of-the-table team in such fantastic T20 form was a super effort. A lot of the credit today has to go to our bowlers because I think par score on that wicket and with these boundaries was certainly 180-plus, so to keep them to 156 was superb. It was great work by them to set up a clinical run-chase.
"Benny Howell and our two spinners did a fantastic job thorough the middle period of Kent's innings. With a strong wind blowing down the ground we knew they would target one end, as we did too, but we built up pressure with dot balls. Then it was just down to me and Ian Cockbain, who's also in good form, to polish the job of on what you might call a clinical effort."