Middlesex 179 for 8 (McCullum 88, Coles 4-32) beat Kent 163 for 8 (Northeast 59, Neesham 52) by 16 runs
Middlesex revived their T20 hopes with a 16-run defeat of Kent Spitfires at Richmond as their captain Brendon McCullum provided runs to go with his inspirational qualities to once again fill their season with optimism.
McCullum's captain's innings of 88 in 51 balls - his first major knock of the season - looked set to be the launchpad for a formidable total but Calum Haggett's 3-27, and a Matt Coles' hat-trick, restricted the hosts to 179 for 8. However, Kent started poorly and while half-centuries from Sam Northeast and James Neesham kept them in the hunt the rate climbed steadily. With wickets falling too they fell to their third defeat of the competition.
Victory will be a boon, too, for their coach Dan Vettori, one of only two specialist T20 coaches in the competition, after a sluggish start to the season.
Steve Finn, Middlesex's England fast bowler, was bullish about their chances after McCullum had led them to victory. "It was an exceptional innings and great to watch," he said. "He hit so cleanly. Everyone is happy in the dressing room right now. We have an exceptional top order.
"This is the strongest team I have played in since since making the final in 2008. We've been found wanting in T20 since so it is important we have put this structure into place, We are still getting to know the coaches and captain anf haven't fired consistently as a team yet, but we don't want to peak too early."
Put into bat on a greenish pitch, Middlesex began with alacrity, but also with the benefit of fortune. Matt Coles surprised McCullum when the Kiwi was on six but though the ball popped up temptingly it fell between fielders. McCullum had scored another 11 when he drove the same bowler to Northeast at cover only for his Kent counterpart to drop him. On both occasions, to Coles' chagrin, the next ball was smacked for four.
With McCullum reaching his 50 in the ninth over, and the opening partnership into the 80s, 200-plus beckoned. Even after England call-up Dawid Malan, having pulled Coles for six into the food tents, gloved the next ball to depart for 33 it was 125 for 1 after 13. But James Tredwell (1-22) and Haggett staunched the flow of runs.
Frustrated, McCallum played one bold shot too many, bowled trying to ramp, and a clatter of wickets ensued. Morgan followed successive sixes by holing out then Coles took a last-over hat-trick completed by bowling Tim Southee first ball.
Southee fared better with ball in hand, having Daniel Bell-Drummond leg before to the opener's first ball. The in-form Joe Denly, having survived a very sharp chance to McCullum, then edged Finn to leave Kent 2-2. Sam Billings soon followed but Northeast and Neesham, running excellently for a pair only recently acquainted, and finding hitherto unseen gaps in this small outground, added 75 in nine overs. However, boundaries were sporadic and by the time Northeast skied the rate had crept above 11-an-over.
Darren Stevens quickly followed but Kent have a long battery of hitters. Blake joined Neesham and it came down to 38 off three overs, then 29 off two, but when that pair perished the game was done.