Southern Brave 147 for 2 (de Kock 57*, Vince 53) beat Welsh Fire 144 for 5 (Banton 36, Phillips 30*, du Plooy 30) by eight wickets
Southern Brave will spend the next 48 hours at the top of the table in both the men's and women's Hundred after completing a double-header win against Welsh Fire.
The men's victory cruise was set in motion by Danny Briggs, who bowled tightly at the start of the innings, and Tymal Mills and Chris Jordan's mastery at the death, before Quinton de Kock and James Vince's fluent fifties saw them home with 13 balls to spare.
After consecutive defeats in their opening games, Brave were on the ropes early in the season but have bounced back in style, winning four on the bounce (plus a no-result) and finding a winning formula on their home ground at the Ageas Bowl. They are following the standard narrative arc for a Mahela Jayawardene side, emulating his success with notorious slow-starters Mumbai Indians.
Their final fixture, at home to Oval Invincibles on Monday night, looks increasingly like a shoot-out for a spot in the knockout stages, though the loser of Trent Rockets' game against Birmingham Phoenix on Friday will be looking anxiously over their shoulder.
Fire, meanwhile, are mathematically out: they won their first two games thanks to consecutive fifties from their captain Jonny Bairstow, but have nosedived since his surprise Test recall with five defeats on the bounce.
Vintage Vince, classy Quinny
The circumstances of de Kock's second consecutive unbeaten fifty in the Hundred were bizarre: he faced only three balls out of the first 30 in the run-chase, with Paul Stirling teeing off with a Powerplay boundary blitz and Vince shielding the left-hander from a match-up with Glenn Phillips' offspin, and should have been out lbw to Qais Ahmad on 13, too, but Fire opted not to use their review. "I wasn't getting much of a chance but the other two guys were flying," de Kock said afterwards. "Patience was needed."
Vince dominated with a calm innings, driving, pulling and sweeping to score all around the ground and bringing up a 36-ball fifty without breaking sweat on a true, hybrid pitch. He eventually plinked Qais to long-on for 53, at which point de Kock took over: he nailed a pull off Jimmy Neesham over midwicket, then hit Qais for consecutive boundaries and whacked him for six to remove any semblance of scoring pressure.
He began the tournament with a series of unconverted starts but has now scored 129 runs without being dismissed in his last two innings. He is in the sort of form that marked him out as one of the Hundred's few remaining superstars and is demonstrating why Jayawardene was so delighted to bring him in as a replacement for David Warner.
Vince started the tournament looking out of his depth as a captain, feeding Trent Rockets' strong options with a series of strange calls and getting his sums wrong in the defeat in Cardiff. But he has improved markedly - possibly thanks to Jayawardene's influence - and has started to hold a significant chunk of his death bowlers' allocation back for the end of an innings.
On Thursday night, he left 15 balls each of Jordan and Mills until the final 40 of the innings, and bowled them in tandem for the final 20. The result was that Fire had to attack early on, attempting to take down Brave's spinners in Briggs and Jake Lintott, who took two wickets each.
At the death, Jordan and Mills were again superb as Fire managed 25 runs - including only one boundary - in the final 20 balls, despite having two set batters at the crease in Leus du Plooy and Glenn Phillips. Neesham, who faced only two balls, was wasted at No. 7 after they opted to leave out a bowler (Matt Milnes) for an opener (David Lloyd) - though execution was a bigger issue for Fire than intent.
With Jofra Archer out of the tournament through injury, it looks increasingly likely that Mills and Jordan will be England's death-bowling partnership in October's T20 World Cup - on recent evidence, they would be well-equipped to stymie even the best finishers.
It has been a rough 18 months for Tom Banton, whose star has fallen considerably since he burst onto the T20 scene with a stellar year in 2019 that saw him light up the Blast and Big Bash, and earn himself PSL and IPL deals. He struggled with bio-bubble life on the fringes of the England team last year and had a nightmare start to the year, contracting Covid-19 at the PSL which affected him for the first few months of the summer with Somerset.
He finally found form at the end of June, scoring 77 and 107 not out in consecutive Blast innings, but was then called into England's ODI squad to run the drinks and lost all rhythm when forced into self-isolation after his team-mates tested positive. He managed only 60 runs in his first six innings for Welsh Fire and looked horribly out of form.
So his 36 off 20 was a welcome return to fluency, if not quite the match-winning score required to arrest Fire's slump. He thumped three sixes in the space of five balls in the Powerplay, charging Danny Briggs to launch him over long-off then heaving and pulling consecutive George Garton deliveries into the stands. He tried to keep the innings moving by taking on Lintott in the middle phase but holed out to deep midwicket before he was able to press on.