On a two-paced pitch that made boundary hitting tricky for both sides, Spitfires successfully defended 166 for six with Rabada claiming two for 31 and Fabian Cowdrey two for eight to seal their sides third south group win.
After collecting his man-of-the-match award 21-year-old Rabada said: “It was a great start for my debut and I’m just happy that I could contribute and that the team has won. It’s a good start for me and hopefully we can get some momentum from this.
“It was quite a good wicket but most of the guys felt we fell a bit short runs wise, so credit to all the bowlers because we made it tough for them to score and got wickets at crucial times.”
Visiting skipper Luke Wright said: “I was delighted, after the start Kent had, to restrict them to that total. I’d have taken that total any day, so it’s disappointing now and feels like we let that one slip away. But credit to their bowlers, I felt they executed their plans really well.
“Also credit to Sam (Northeast) for his decision to bring on Cowdrey when he did. You never know how it’ll go when you bring on a part-time bowler, especially with someone like Ross Taylor batting. But it proved a gutsy decision.”
Needing to score at 8.35 an over to surpass Kent’s modest 166 for six, Sussex openers Chris Nash and Luke Wright had faced only eight deliveries when a low sun glinting through the gap between the Pavilion and the Frank Woolley Stand caused a stoppage in play for 17 minutes. As the players stood in the middle waiting for the sun to drop, the irony was not lost on a Kent side who have lost 1,216 overs to inclement weather in all forms of cricket this summer.
On his Kent debut, Kagiso Rabada, the South Africa firebrand struck with his 11th delivery by pegging back the off stump of Chris Nash (6) with a 90mph yorker.
‘Bad light’ came into play again at the opposite end of the ground as this time the setting sun reflected off the windows of the Sky Sports commentary box to dazzle the batsmen and cause a further 10-minute delay.
Six balls after the resumption Luke Wright (16) attempted to uppercut against Rabada to be caught superbly on the run at third man by David Griffiths.
With James Tredwell bowling frugally, Sussex still required 100 to win with 10 overs remaining, but that was the cue for Ross Taylor to cut lose by taking 17 off a Darren Stevens over.
Kent hit back when, in his first over, Fabian Cowdrey had Phil Salt (18) caught at cow corner then, Cowdrey’s arm ball wrapped Taylor on the pads flush in front to send the Kiwi packing one short of his 50.
Matt Machan launched into a leg-side six off Griffiths leaving Sharks to score 32 to win off their final two overs. Mitch Claydon conceded nine off the penultimate over, leaving debutant Rabada
Batting first after winning the toss, Kent made a watchful start through Tom Latham and Joe Denly, who appeared content simply to see off the extreme pace of Tymal Mills.
The Spitfires openers took a brace of boundaries off Nuwan Kulasekara, the Sri Lanka seamer making the first of his three appearances for the Sharks, but still seemed too circumspect.
Ajmal Shahzad dropped short allowing Latham to clip the first six of the night over mid-wicket as Kent reached 48 without loss after their six powerplay overs.
Sussex hauled the run-rate in further to restrict Kent to 89 for nought at the innings mid-point and spark the loss of three wickets in seven balls.
After helping to set a record opening stand in matches against Sussex worth 90, Denly’s 40-ball knock for 44 ended with a sliced drive high to deep cover off Chris Nash then, four balls later, Sam Northeast (1) holed out to long-on to make it 99 for two. The rot continued as Latham clipped off his legs to be caught at deep fine leg for 48.
Sam Billings should have gone for 12 when he miscued a Danny Briggs full-toss only for Phil Salt to spill a comfortable throat-high chance at mid-wicket. The drop cost only 10 runs when Billings miscued his next full toss to long-on where Machan pocketed the chance to make it 130 for four.
In his second stint down the Nackington Road slope Mills mixed his pace and lengths superbly to bamboozle Kent’s big-hitting duo of Stevens and Alex Blake.
Frustrated by the lack of boundaries, Stevens (2) launched into a straight drive against Jordan to pick out Kulasekar at long-off.
Mills conceded his sole boundary of the night in his final over, but wrapped up his excellent four-over stint of one for 15 by yorking Cowdrey for a duck.
Blake unbeaten 36 was full of miscues and mishits as Kent mustered 166.
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