Former Black Caps skipper Brendon McCullum has ignited Middlesex's domestic T20 campaign with a typically blistering knock that helped secure an important win against Kent.
McCullum's innings of 88 in 51 balls was his first major knock of the season, and included nine fours and six sixes as he steered the Daniel Vettori-coached Middlesex to 8-179.
Having been sent in by Kent captain Sam Northeast, McCullum enjoyed some early luck – one top edge fell safely between fielders when he was on six, then was dropped by the Kent skipper at cover on 11.
Both misses came off Kent bowler Matt Coles – and both were followed by searing slaps to the boundary.
McCullum's fifty came up in the ninth over from 30 balls with six fours and four sixes.
Middlesex's opening partnership had reached 92 when new England Test call-up Dawid Malan smashed a six into the food tents at the Richmond's Old Deer Park venue in London's western suburbs.
But Malan departed next ball for 33 having gloved one behind and Kent were able to stem the flow of runs.
Frustrated, McCullum was bowled in the 18th over attempting a ramp shot.
Coles got some revenge with a final-over hat-trick as Middlesex reached 8-179.
Middlesex and England bowler Steve Finn was full of praise for what was a trademark knock from the aggressive Kiwi opener.
"It was an exceptional innings and great to watch," he said.
"He hit so cleanly. Everyone is happy in the dressing room right now. We have an exceptional top order.
"This is the strongest team I have played in since since making the final in 2008.
"We've been found wanting in T20 since so it is important we have put this structure into place.
"We are still getting to know the coaches and captain and haven't fired consistently as a team yet, but we don't want to peak too early."
In reply, Kent struggled to 8-163 off their 20 overs, despite Jimmy Neesham's 52 off 37 as he and Northeast put on 75 runs in nine overs for the fourth wicket.
Black Caps quick Tim Southee also played his part for Middlesex, clean bowling opener Daniel Bell-Drummond in the first over and returning figures of 1-27 off his four overs.
After 14 games, Middlesex have seven wins and sit third on the South Group ladder behind Gloucestershire and Glamorgan.