KENT suffered Vitality Blast agony after being denied an emphatic south group win over Hampshire by rain showers in Canterbury.

Seemingly cruising to an opening-round win at 52 without loss after only 25 deliveries, chasing 140 to win, the heavens opened forcing Kent’s openers Daniel Bell-Drummond and Zak Crawley off the field with only five more deliveries needing to be bowled to constitute a completed match.

Though the hosts were well ahead of the asking rate required under the Duckworth/Lewis/Stern method, the deluge forced the match officials to abandon the match at 4.40pm with the sides sharing a point apiece.

Describing the side’s heartbreak, Netherlands international Fred Klaassen said: “With only five balls to go it was excruciating to come off really. The batters were going so well, batting beautifully they timed it so well but couldn’t quite get us over the line.

“It’s sad times with no-one in the ground, it takes away a bit of the buzz, and we had to try and create a bit of it ourselves.

"There was no crowd, no music and even the electronic scoreboard was struggling to start with, but we were still going nicely as a team."

Aware of the great risk of further rain, Kent started their innings, at an asking rate of seven an over, in a hurry as Crawley, fresh from his record-breaking double ton against Pakistan for England at Ageas Bowl, clubbed 16 off Chris Woods’s opening over.

Daniel Bell-Drummond showed James Fuller similar disdain by crashing another brace of boundaries as Kent had 25 on the board within two overs.

The onslaught continued as Bell-Drummond clattered a four and six over mid-wicket during Ryan Stevenson’s first over, and then marched down the pitch to Wood to cart two more leg-side boundaries as Spitfires raised their 50 after 4.1 overs with a Crawley leg-glance against Fuller.

But, with victory within the sight of five more balls, the rain returned and the players departed to dressing rooms on separate sides of the ground.

Batting first after losing the toss, Hampshire’s Joe Weatherley held the innings together with a bright 49-ball knock worth 68 either side of a 20-minute rain break

George Munsey started the boundary count with a slog-swept six in the opening over from Alex Blake, but Matt Milnes struck in his first over having Tom Alsop caught at deep cover off a skied leading edge.

Sam Northeast, Hampshire’s acting captain and a former Kent skipper to boot, had only two runs to his name when, having been called through for a sharp single by Munsey, went run out after Klaassen’s direct hit, left-handed from cover point.

In the next over Klassen’s bumper caused Munsey, on 19, to top-edge to mid-wicket where Jack Leaning took a fine diving catch and help restrict the visitors to 30 for three in their powerplay.

Having reached 61 for three at the midpoint, Hampshire struggled for boundaries until Weatherley, a Kent loanee in 2017, slog-swept the afternoon’s second six against season’s debutant Calum Haggett.

In the next over Lewis McManus pulled another maximum from a short one from Grant Stewart as the fourth-wicket pair posed a 50 stand in 43 balls. The partnership ended for 71 just as drizzle arrived when McManus (26) heaved a Milnes off-cutter to long on.

With 17 overs completed, the rain strengthened leaving umpires Mark Newell and Nigel Llong with little option but to take the players off with Weatherley stranded, seven runs shy of his 50.

The shower abated, allowing Weatherley to resume his knock 20 minutes later and move to a 42-ball 50 with a slog-swept six over mid-wicket against Stewart.

Left-armer Klassen continued to impress when he extracted extra bounce to have Fuller caught behind then, in the final over, a Milnes slow-ball bouncer brushed Weatherley’s gloves and looped through to the keeper to end the innings on 139 for six.

Imran Qayyum conceded only 22 from his four overs of left-arm spin, but Milnes was the pick of the home seamers after a stint of 4-0-19-3.

Hampshire return to Blast action at Sussex on Sunday (2pm).