Darren Stevens defies age and logic to turn game for Kent on T20 comeback

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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

Modern T20 cricket is almost unrecognisable from the format launched as the Twenty20 Cup in 2003 but at least one thing has not changed: Darren Stevens, county cricket’s Peter Pan, is still a match-winner. A week short of 18 years since his debut in the format, opening the batting in Leicestershire’s first-ever T20 fixture, Stevens made his long-awaited return to Kent’s Vitality Blast side after a four-year absence and turned their season opener on its head to spearhead a comfortable win.
Hampshire had reached 51 without loss after the powerplay when Stevens came into the attack but at the end of a miserly four-over spell featuring two wickets, no boundaries and only 22 runs, they were dead and buried: the required rate had soared from exactly nine an over to an eye-watering 12.71, setting a collapse of nine wickets for 78 runs in motion. Fred Klaassen won the match award for his four wickets, but had the grace to admit it had been: “The Darren Stevens show – quite remarkable.”

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. He had won the competition twice, but those days were long gone.

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 opted to manage his workload and 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’,” he said. “I get it, but I’m just gutted.”

(With Inputs from ESPN)

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