Hampshire 310 for 9 (Northeast 105*, Vince 56, Rossouw 55, Milnes 5-79) Kent 220 (Crawley 49) by 90 runs
There were some players hanging on the announcement of England's preliminary World Cup squad, but Sam Northeast wasn't one of them. England ambitions partly explained his move from Kent to Hampshire. But a year later, England still aren't looking.
Still, why not take out your frustrations on your former county? Northeast, prolific in 50-over cricket, was booed by Kent supporters at Lord's during last season's Royal London Cup final, but made 75 not out in a comfortable Hampshire win. Back at Canterbury for this South Group tie, he upgraded that with an unbeaten 105 from 95 balls. An even more one-sided win - by 90 runs and frankly Kent were lucky to get that close - provided Northeast with ample delight.
Not that Kent supporters booed him this time. This was Canterbury on an idyllic spring afternoon, a most placid of settings, where the members prefer to doze in quiet contemplation of the excellence before them. Even to be described rather tastefully as "supporters" might mildly offend them, the definition having only been around for about 700 years.
Northeast's century was not a breeze, however. The white ball once again displayed a depressing reluctance to do anything untoward, but the pitch was a bit sticky and Northeast had made 47 from 61 balls in workmanlike fashion at the point when Hampshire subsided from 213 for 3 to 224 for 6. His response - another 58 from his last 34 balls - was perfectly judged; the result his fourth List A hundred.
That Hampshire slump in mid-innings was caused by Matt Milnes, a powerful medium-fast seamer who Kent enticed from Nottinghamshire in the season with the promise of more regular cricket. Five wickets on debut was not a bad start. Fortune favoured him in his dismissal of the openers: Tom Alsop strangled down the leg side by his loosener; Aiden Markram surprised when a solid-enough defensive shot could not prevent the ball from spinning back on to his stumps.
His 3 for 5 in seven balls to halt Hampshire in mid-innings had more to commend it as he mixed things up skilfully from largely back of a length. Rilee Rossouw had taken Kent for a century in last year's final in an opening position and, here switched to the middle order, looked intent upon a repeat.
If Milnes had not silenced Rossouw's 55 from 43 balls the margin of defeat could have been much greater. But Rossouw's leg-side pick-up picked out deep midwicket, Liam Dawson took two steps down and hauled him to square leg in the next over and Aneurin Donald made a second-ball duck as he swung at another ball straying down the leg side. There might have been a sixth, too - Northeast on 70 - had Zak Crawley held a tough chance at long off, diving forward.
James Vince, like Northeast (and indeed Kent's absentee captain, Sam Billings, a squaddie at the IPL), has also been overlooked by England's World Cup selectors. England are not short of batting talent when such players grace the county game. Vince made a half-century that his admirers would have probably judged 73% on the Pretttiness Meter then departed to a top-edged sweep which flew to backward square while he was trying to locate it at mid-on. So ugly that those admirers would have needed a lie down.
For Kent to find themselves in the game at six down with 10 overs left was arguably more than they deserved. Northeast, who looks slightly bulkier with every season, although not yet to reach the standards of his mentor Rob Key, steadied Hampshire. That he would steal his hundred was far from certain, but after Chris Wood sacrificed himself with a run out, chasing a second, Northeast hacked a slow bouncer from Milnes over point to reach 99 and drove the penultimate ball down the ground for a richly rewarding moment.
Kent's chase under lights malfunctioned with the loss of three wickets in the first six overs. Daniel Bell-Drummond, squared up by late away movement was caught from a leading edge at cover off Kyle Abbott, then Australia's Matt Renshaw, on his home debut, nicked a drive as Wood took one down the slope.
Stand-in captain Heino Kuhn, who made almost 700 runs at an average of 87 last summer, departed for nought in unfortunate fashion when Abbott deflected a Crawley drive on to the stumps. The captain is at the IPL and so is the vice-captain. It appeared even the Gods had now deserted him.
Crawley made an upright, leg-side dominant 49 that was reminiscent of the former England batsman John Crawley no matter how many times one is reminded that he is no relation. Harry Podmore bashed a face-saving 40.
But the game was as good as gone. The temperature dropped, smoke enveloped the ground at one point and much of the crowd went home. Hampshire had considerably more bowling variation, not just in a sharper, more varied pace attack (no extra venom from Matt Henry with the new ball for Kent, unlike last season's 50-over competition), but also in the legspin of Mason Crane.
Crane got through that Lord's final last summer before succumbing to a stress fracture, and his completion of a full spell was a heartening sight. Kent, by contrast, had Alex Blake learning offspin. Note to Kent: the ECB said the Developmental Competition starts next season…