SOMERSET have beaten the Kent Spitfires by eight wickets in the opening Vitality Blast match of the season at Canterbury.

The visitors exacted some revenge for their defeat to Kent in last year’s final, with Rilee Roussow hitting 81 from 54 balls (including seven fours and two sixes) and Tom Abell 48 from 29, as Somerset coasted home to finish on 166 for two with five balls to spare, after a Roussow and Abell shared an unbeaten stand of 121.

Earlier Jack Leaning hit 72 from 43 balls, as the champions recovered from just 52 for four at halfway to post 162 for six, Lewis Gregory taking 3 for 25.

The reigning champions made one change from the side that won last year’s final, but it was a big call, with Darren Stevens omitted in favour of overseas player George Linde.

After losing the toss and being asked to field, the visitors removed England’s Zak Crawley for four in the second over when he hit Josh Davey to Roelof van der Merwe at cover.

Daniel Bell-Drummond somehow survived Davey’s next over, during which he was nearly out thrice, only to fall for 12 when he swished Lewis Gregory to Lewis Goldsworthy.

Kent edged to 30 for two at the end of the powerplay and then lost captain Sam Billings for just five in the seventh, when he edged Gregory behind.

Ben Green bowled Joe Denly for five in the next over and then nearly had Jordan Cox caught for a golden duck, the ball just eluding backward point.

The Cox-Leaning partnership that repeatedly bailed Kent out during their title-winning season was worth 52, until the former spooned Goldsworthy to Tom Abell for 11 in the 14th over and it was left to Linde to hit the accelerator.

His 15-ball 29 included a maximum off Green that cleared the Knott-Underwood Stand and flew out of the ground.

Leaning hit the first delivery with the replacement ball for a staggering six that landed on a top floor balcony on the Old Dover Road side of the ground.

Gregory had Linde caught by Lammonby at long on with the first ball of the 18th, but Grant Stewart added 14 from eight balls to set what looked a competitive target.

Somerset lost Tom Banton for nine when he swiped Matt Milnes to Leaning at deep square leg and Will Smeed for 21 when he pulled Fred Klaassen to Cox on the square leg boundary, but Kent’s failure to take wickets proved crucial.

The visitors were 65 for two at halfway and Rossouw and Abell kept the run rate under 11 an over. With wickets in hand they took 15 from Qais Ahmad in the 17th over, leaving them needing 26 from 18.

A misfield for four at the start of the 18th tilted the equation firmly in Somerset’s favour and Roussow then mowed Milnes for a six.

Needing just a single from the final over, Somerset sealed the win when Roussow drove Klaassen down the ground for four.