Despite a flurry of late wickets from seamer Katie George, Kent eventually got over the line at Polo Farm against Hampshire with 2 and a half overs to spare, taking them to a 7-wicket victory against the former County Champions.
Fran Wilson top-scored for the hosts with 74 from 75 balls, her second big score in her maiden season for Kent after she made 87 against Warwickshire two weekends ago. Both performances should put her in contention to claim a place in the England squad ahead of the internationals against West Indies which begin next month.
Wilson came to the crease with Kent 0-1, chasing Hampshire’s 233 – Alice Davidson-Richards having been bowled by Maia Bouchier before her side had troubled the scorers.
Wilson, though, quickly took charge, with Hampshire feeding her some short and wide balls outside of off-stump which she gobbled up eagerly. She raced away to 50 with partner Tammy Beaumont still on only 15*.
Hampshire eventually found the right line to bowl to her, cramping her for room and having her trapped LBW to Charlie Dean. Beaumont fell the very next ball, caught behind to Charlotte Taylor, leaving Kent stumbling somewhat at 123-3.
Laura Marsh and Maxine Blythin then came together in a 72-run partnership, scampering singles to take the hosts within touching distance of victory.
There was one last twist in the tale for Kent, in the shape of Katie George’s second spell of the innings. George initially surprised everyone with a lone appeal for caught behind against Marsh, which the umpire acquiesced with. In her next over she took two further wickets in two balls, having Tash Farrant caught at cover and Izzy Cloke done for pace and bowled.
Lauren Griffiths successfully survived the hat-trick ball, but George got her eventually – trapping her LBW in her next over. At that point George had 4-62 and Kent were 213-7, still needing 21 runs to win.
It was left to Blythin and Chelsey Rowson to hustle Kent over the line, and they got there in the end – Blythin finished with an unbeaten half-century, and Rowson showed her mettle with a four creamed through the covers to finish things off.
Earlier, Hampshire had initially stumbled after winning the toss and choosing to bat – both Dean and George falling LBW without scoring.
The return of superstar Suzie Bates from the Women’s IPL, though, appeared to have a transformative effect on the rest of Hampshire’s batting, which looked a million miles away from last week’s showing against Sussex.
Bates herself racked up 63 in a partnership of 88 with Bouchier, though she lacked some of her usual fluency and was dropped on 6* and 23*, both chances coming off the bowling of Marsh. Beaumont finally snaffled her at midwicket in the 39th over.
Bouchier, meanwhile, went 1 run better and showed her strength in the V to top-score with 64 (86 balls), before being done by a Sarah Taylor-esque piece of glovework from Griffiths, who – standing up to the stumps for Farrant – had the batsman stumped from a leg side wide.
Hampshire’s lower order then also came good, with Emily Windsor hitting an attacking 34 before Taylor (22*) and Lucia Kendall (28*) put on 39 in the last 6 overs of the innings – Kendall celebrating her 15th birthday in some style! In the context of a close Championship race, Kent’s failure to dislodge either of the pair meant they missed out on not just 1 but 2 bowling bonus points, which could prove crucial.
For the moment, however, Lancashire’s loss to Yorkshire puts Kent firmly atop Division 1, with 3 matches left to play in this year’s Women’s County Championship.