Kent’s prince of the Twenty20 Joe Denly scored his fourth successive half-century in this year’s cup event to mastermind a successful run-chase as Spitfires got home off the last ball to beat Hampshire by four wickets.
In a tense finish at Sat Lawrence, the hosts needed eight runs from the final over from Ian Harvey, but the loss of Darren Stevens (0) caught at long off to the first ball and the run out of Geraint Jones without facing upped the pressure on all-rounder Azhar Mahmood.
But the former Pakistan ace held his nerve to hit two to long on then, with the field in, he hammered a four over mid-on to avenge Saturday’s defeat at The Rose Bowl and land Kent’s third win in four starts in the defence of their title.
Kent started the pursuit of Hawks’ total of 162-7 in fine style at Denly and Rob Key added 56 in six overs.
Key was the senior partner, clattering 40 in 23 balls, before being run out when attempting a second run to Billy Taylor at third man.
Martin van Jaarsveld made his biggest contribution of the campaign to date, scoring 24 from 18 balls before his attempt at a reverse sweep against Liam Dawson hit him full on the boot to go leg before and make it 95-2.
With the asking rate down to 46 from the last five overs, Denly rocked back to force through the covers for four to reach his fourth straight 50 from 45 balls with four fours and a six.
Having taken his cup aggregate to 215 at an average of 53.75 Denly drove hard at Nantie Hayward’s next ball to lose his off stump and leave the door ajar for a Hampshire recovery.
But Hawks soon had the door slammed in their faces when, with 41 needed in three overs, Justin Kemp launched at attack on Ian Harvey that swung the game Kent’s way.
He hit a six into Nackington Road from Harvey’s first ball up, then Azhar Mahmood joined in the spree with a six and straight four as 19 came off the over.
After a good over from Taylor in which Kemp (19) holed out to deep cover, Spitfires still needed eight from Harvey’s final over but Mahmood rose to the occasion and a near 5,000 crowd went home happy.
Earlier, Kent put in a much improved bowling display than down they had at The Rose Bowl 48 hours earlier to restrict Hampshire to 162-7.
The Spitfires attack were far less generous, particularly off-spinner James Tredwell who finished with 1-20 in his four overs that included his first T20 maiden and only Kent’s sixth in the six-year history of the event.
Simon Cook faired equally well, finishing with 2-21 from his stint as only Michael Carberry with 51 from 39 balls posted a half-century for the Hawks.
After an opening stand of 69, Kent finally got a foothold in the match when Michael Lumb (38) went lbw to Cook when trying to pull a full-length ball.
Ian Harvey, having been dropped on five, reached 31 from 20 balls before he lost his leg stump when swishing at Ryan McLaren.
Chris Benham (3) was fooled by a Tredwell arm ball that clipped off stump then skipper Nic Pothas (0) went leg before, pad bat when back in defence to a Cook in-ducker.
Carberry reached his second T20 50 against Kent in as many games but next ball up skied to long off where Justin Kemp took an excellent catch on the run from long-off.
In the final over Greg Lamb was run out in trying to sneak a bye to Geraint Jones, leaving Kent to score at an asking rate of 8.15 an over for victory.