45-year-old allrounder takes 2 for 22 without conceding a boundary as Hampshire stumble to defeat
Kent 176 for 6 (Robinson 48, Denly 44, Bell-Drummond 42, Crane 3-23) beat Hampshire 138 for 9 (Klaassen 4-32) by 38 runs
For the last three years Stevens has told anyone who would listen – and plenty who wouldn’t, including Kent’s coaching staff – that T20 is his favourite format and that he should have been part of their side, but his returns with the bat had tailed off from 2015-17 and he had played an increasingly peripheral role with the ball.
An unsuccessful loan spell at Derbyshire in 2019 seemed to confirm he was no longer the white-ball force that had once come close to an England cap and with his Championship bowling as potent as ever, Kent looked the other way. He had first fallen out of the side when injured in 2018: “When I came back, the youngsters were doing okay and they just said ‘we’re going to give them a bit of a go’. I get it, but I’m just gutted,” he said.
But Stevens’ scriptwriters have a penchant for the romantic. D’Arcy Short and James Vince – one of the Blast’s best opening pairs on paper – had tucked into Klaassen and Grant Stewart in the first six overs and Stevens’ arrival in the seventh was designed to limit the damage, on a pitch that suited pace-off options throughout the night.
“From the Nackington Road End, Darren Stevens,” declared the ground’s announcer to the loudest cheer of the night. And then, the inevitable: a length ball just outside leg stump to the left-hander, a tickle down the leg side, a clean catch from Robinson and a joyous celebration. Short stood perplexed, convinced the ball had flicked his pad rather than his inside edge, but by the time he had dragged himself off the Kent faithful were one in song: “There’s only one Darren Stevens”.
Sam Northeast, who had spoken about his difficulties facing his great mate Stevens after inviting him onto the Two Hacks, One Pro podcast last year, was the new man at No. 3. He punched his first ball for a couple but struggled to get the next four away, managing only three dots and a single. “I’m feeling good as hell,” Lizzo sang over the PA system at the end of the over and Stevens must have been too.
Stevens was backed up by Logan, a tall left-arm spinner from Wakefield who was born six months after Stevens’ first-class debut, whose three overs would cost only 14 runs as he nagged away on a length, and Stevens conceded only five from his second over, changing his grip and his pace and bowling to his field.
The pressure told as Northeast hacked Logan to long-off, running in off the rope, and with Vince too losing his fluency, he decided to take a length ball from Stevens on; Cox ran in to take the catch at deep midwicket, and the celebrations resumed. When Klaassen returned to take two wickets in the 15th over, Hampshire still hadn’t found the rope since the fielding restrictions were lifted and despite Joe Weatherley’s late flourish, they were always a long way short.
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98