Essex 204 for 3 (Bopara 81*, Zaidi 54*) beat Kent 154 for 9 (Blake 37, Walter 3-26) by 50 runs
Ravi Bopara underlined his liking for the Kent attack when he hammered six sixes in an unbeaten 81 to lead Essex to their third successive NatWest T20 Blast victory.
The Essex captain, who also posted 74 not out when the two teams met in the Royal London Cup two-and-a-half weeks ago, was on fire, and was particularly harsh on Mitch Claydon, who he deposited for two maximums in the final over of the innings.
Bopara, who batted for 43 balls with six fours as well as those half-a-dozen sixes, put on an unbeaten 131 off 10.2 overs with Ashar Zaidi, who was in similar form himself. Zaidi finished unbeaten on 54 off 33 balls with five fours and three sixes.
And all this after Kent put Essex in and Jesse Ryder went third ball, beaten for pace by Kagiso Rabada and edging to wicketkeeper Sam Billings without scoring.
Kent started their reply in brisk fashion, landing a succession of sixes themselves, eight in the final analysis, but they became becalmed mid-innings as the required run-rate topped 14 with seven overs remaining and kept growing.
After the departure of Ryder, the Essex innings was sparked into action by Tom Westley and Kishen Velani. Westley drove Rabada through the covers two balls into his innings and pulled another boundary through midwicket when the young South African dropped one short.
Velani was no less punishing, twice giving himself room to chop Claydon through the covers and then greeting Ivan Thomas with a controlled, lofted edge to third man for another four.
The second-wicket partnership had put on 42 in 4.5 overs when the pair collided midwicket chasing a second run and Velani failed to beat Sam Northeast's throw into the wicketkeeper's gloves.
Bopara had just deposited James Tredwell over cow corner for six when, two balls later, the bowler held a sharp caught-and-bowled to dismiss Westley for 33 from 31 balls.
Bopara's second six, swept over midwicket, ruined Fabian Cowdrey's figures. The spinner's first three overs had gone for 13, but his last went for 14.
Zaidi was in typically hard-hitting mode, bouncing down the wicket to thump Thomas over cow for six and then lofting Tredwell over long leg for a second.
Bopara and Zaidi passed fifty in five overs together when Bopara got an inside-edge for four that left Thomas flat on the floor in his follow-through, and hitting the ground in frustration.
It didn't not get any better for Thomas as Bopara hit the last two balls of his spell for a straight, flat six and then paddled a four to reach his personal fifty off 32 balls.
Bopara's fourth six, clouting Rabada over his head high into the black sightscreen behind the bowler, also brought up the hundred partnership for the fourth wicket inside 10 overs.
Zaidi reached his fifty off 33 balls from a loose full-toss by Claydon which was sent towering over midwicket. The bowler received similar treatment by Bopara who hit his fifth and sixth sixes off the same over, the first straight, the second over long-on.
The home crowd, already pumped up by the display of six-hitting by Bopara and Zaidi, were soon celebrating a wicket. Joe Denly departed for a first-ball duck when he was beaten all ends up to provide Paul Walter with his first senior wicket for Essex.
But Kent were soon hitting sixes for fun themselves. Dan Lawrence went for two in an over, Tom Latham hooking the first over midwicket and another straight. Sam Northeast then eased Matt Quinn over cow corner as Kent reached 49 off the first five overs.
But from the first ball of the next over, Northeast swished at Graham Napier and was caught behind. Since Napier had taken two Surrey wickets with his last two deliveries at The Oval on Saturday, it meant he had taken a hat-trick, albeit six days apart. More importantly he put the brakes on Kent's onslaught, conceding just two runs in the over, and then had Latham caught by Ryder backward of square.
Billings did not last much longer, run out by a direct hit from Ryder in the middle of a maiden over from Ryan ten Doeschate. Stevens also fell to another direct-hit run-out as Bopara fielded off his own bowling before Alex Blake was caught by ten Doeschate on his knees at long-on for a 31-ball 37, including two sixes.
Rabada went second ball to a catch behind off Quinn, Cowdrey was caught-and-bowled by Walter and Tredwell became Walter's third victim, caught on the fine-leg boundary by Lawrence.