Kent’s Twenty20 game plan went horribly wrong at only the second time of asking as they suffered a humiliating 107-run defeat to Surrey at a packed Brit Oval.
Chasing Surrey’s 198 for six, Kent capitulated for 91 losing their last seven wickets for only 18 runs in just four overs as their run chase went off the rails in front of a crowd of 15,300.
Yet there was no sign of the collapse that was to follow when Stevens, in racing to 31 from 19 balls, played too soon as he aimed to drive a Tim Murtagh slower ball and lost his middle stump.
Andrew Hall marched in to smite his first ball through extra cover only to heave his next, from Jade Denrbach, into the hands of Stuart Walters at deep mid-wicket.
James Tredwell’s stay also lasted two balls after he walked across a Murtagh in-swinger to go leg before without troubling the scorers.
Spitfires re-grouped with proper cricket stroked from Martin van Jaarsveld and Neil Dexter (15) to reach 73 before Dexter called for a suicidal leg-bye off Murtagh only to be run out as the bowler followed through to break the stumps with an under-arm toss.
Key’s disastrous night continued when he slogged at Nyan Doshi’s fourth ball of the night to be bowled then, next ball up, Tyron Henderson miscued off the bottom of his bat to pick out Walters on the deep mid-wicket ropes to make it 78 for six.
In the next over Matthew Walker (1) dragged his back foot in aiming leg-side to Ian Salisbury to be stumped by Jonathan Batty as Kent lost their third wicket in five balls.
The Spitfires’ nosedive continued when van Jaarsveld (28) missed an attempted on drive against Doshi to be bowled for 28, Min Patel then slogged across the line and Amjad Khan was run out by Murtagh’s direct hit as Surrey wrapped up the win with 8.2 overs to spare.
Key’s decision to invite the Brown Caps to bat first was soon looking a rash one once Surrey made a flying start through Ali Brown and James Benning, who posted 33 inside 13 minutes.
Brown hit a six, and three fours in racing to 25 from 13 balls before miscuing a lofted drive off Amjad Khan to Henderson at mid-on.
Mark Ramprakash then joined Benning in a stunning partnership that put Kent’s attack under the cosh in adding 124 in 10 overs.
Ramprakash was at his imperious best, though Key lived to rue another moment when he dropped a catch at short fine-leg off the bowling of Dexter with Ramprakash on 21.
The former England man went on the club five fours and two sixes in reaching his half-century in only 19 balls.
Having seen Dexter go for 39 from two overs and Henderson cost 42 off three, Key attempted to stem the flow of runs by taking the pace off the ball.
Tredwell and Patel were introduced in tandem and though both conceded a six off their first delivery, they did the job asked of them by cutting the run rate and, in Tredwell’s case, by taking two wickets.
Tredwell’s low full-toss enticed Ramprakash (58) to drive into the hands of Dexter at long-on and, in the off-spinner’s next over Azhar Mahmood (4) followed suit with a near identical shot.
Benning looked set to become Surrey’s first ever Twenty20 centurion in reaching 88 from 54 balls with 11 fours and a brace of sixes.
But, 12 short and with just two overs to go, he attempted an expansive back-foot force that Walker caught low down running in from long-off.
With the rate back below 10 an over Khan cashed in again in the penultimate over when Tredwell took a sublime over-head catch in his left hand, running back at extra cover off Batty’s sliced drive.
Considering the carnage that had gone before Kent’s top-line bowlers had good reason to be pleased with their night’s work.
Patel had been the most frugal with four overs for 25, while Hall and Tredwell bagged identical figures of two for 31. Khan also recovered from a poor opening over to claim two for 26 from three overs – all had performed a minor miracle in restricting Surrey to 58 runs from their final 10 overs and keeping them below 200.
As it turned out, half that total would have been enough to see off Kent.