STAND-IN captain Alex Gidman admitted the batsman had to accept the blame for Gloucestershire’s Royal London One-Day Cup quarter-final defeat at Kent.
The County’s hopes of winning some silverware for the first time in ten years were ended at Canterbury after they bowled out for 218 under the floodlights, 24 runs short of the home side’s total.
David Payne starred with the ball for Gloucestershire by taking 5-44 as Kent slipped from 215-4 in the 43rd over to 242 all out after Sam Northeast (78) and Fabian Cowdrey (51) set the platform and Sam Billings' thrilling 61 off 36 balls provided crucial acceleration.
However, the visitors struggled on a turgid, grassless pitch that made fluent strokeplay difficult and were unable to recover after being reduced to 125-6, Gareth Roderick top-scoring with 43.
Gidman, leading the side in the absence of Michael Klinger, said: “We were backing ourselves to get the runs, but in truth the top six batsmen did not contribute enough to give the lower order a chance.
“Kent had one batsman make 70-odd and another 60-odd. None of us could manage to match them and that was the difference.
“It’s a hammer blow losing a quarter-final, but we have to learn from it.”
Chris Dent got Gloucestershire’s reply off to a great start as he hit 40 from 37 balls with two sixes but, with Kent captain Rob Key constantly rotating his bowlers, the home side maintained control in the field as Ben Harmison, who finished with 3-40, Adam Riley, Darren Stevens and David Griffiths also struck at important times to keep Gloucestershire pegged back.
Will Gidman and Benny Howell put on a determined 53 for the seventh wicket but Griffiths' perfect 85mph yorker in the 39th over to bowl Gidman for 39 left Gloucestershire at 178-7 with too much to do in the last 10 overs.
Jack Taylor did offer defiant blows for six and four off Riley, but on 16 he nicked an expansive drive at Harmison to Billings behind the stumps and Howell's 33 ended when he was bowled by Mitch Claydon in the 47th over. The end soon came, with last man David Payne bowled by Griffiths.
The way Gloucestershire's batsmen struggled against a Kent attack missing both off-spinner James Tredwell, away on England one-day duty, and Doug Bollinger, the Australian fast bowler whose season as overseas player has been cut short by a call-up to a Champions League training camp by his Twenty20 franchise Hobart Hurricanes, showed just how well Billings played earlier in the day.
Billings struck three sixes and seven fours to dominate a match-turning stand of 82 in eight overs with Northeast, whose 123-ball innings, with six fours, anchored Kent's innings.
It had not started well for the home team, with Key and Harmison falling to successive balls in Payne's third over with the new ball. Key fell for two, edging a curious-looking paddle-pull to the wicketkeeper and Harmison, pushing forward to his first ball, was leg-before.
Cowdrey provided the initial impetus in a third-wicket stand of 106 with Northeast that gave Kent a platform for the acceleration that came so dramatically through Billings.
Cowdrey's 51 from 68 balls, with five fours, ended with a leading edge to short extra cover off Will Gidman in the 29th over, and Stevens holed out to long on for 12 in the 35th over after Kent opted to take their batting powerplay at 127-3 from 32 overs.
Billings, however, took two fours from the powerplay's last two balls, bowled by Payne, and this was the start of a magnificent display of clean hitting by the Kent wicketkeeper-batsman, who took his run tally in this year's Royal London Cup competition to 418 from just six innings, at an average of 104.5.
Two sixes were taken off Dent's left-arm spin in the 41st over and another six, plus a reverse sweep for four, came from off spinner Taylor as he sped to a 29-ball fifty.
Kent's lower order, though, fell away alarmingly after Northeast was bowled swinging at Craig Miles and Billings followed two overs later when he was lbw to the same bowler as he walked across his stumps in an effort to hit a full delivery away to leg.
Nine balls remained unbowled as the final four wickets fell cheaply, leaving them short of the 250 which had looked on the cards - not that it mattered in the final analysis.