MICHAEL KLINGER celebrated his 33rd birthday four days early by smashing the first T20 ton of his career in Gloucestershire's convincing 48-run win over Worcestershire at Bristol.
The captain, who had a short spell at Worcestershire last season, led from the front with a fantastic knock of 108 from just 64 balls, easily surpassing his previous best of 78, in his first home game for the club in the Friends Life t20 competition.
With both sides losing their opening games after unsuccessful run chases, it was no surprise that Klinger opted to bat first and he helped his side reach an imposing 184-5, before they bowled the visitors out for 136.
Klinger lost opening partner Hamish Marshall (11) in the third over when he smashed a Jack Shantry delivery straight down the throat of Andre Russell at mid-on and although Chris Dent (10) made a promising start with a beautiful cover drive for four off Gareth Andrew he top-edged off Russell (1-32) in the next over and was caught by wicketkeeper Ben Cox running back.
Klinger kept his composure at the other end and gradually accelerated, hitting the first six of the match with a pull shot off Chris Russell in the eighth over, which went for 18 runs.
He reached his half-century off 34 balls in an eventful 11th over, which started with the Australian hitting a six off Shantry (2-41) and also saw Ian Cockbain (16) well caught by Alexei Kervezee running in from deep mid-wicket to end a 51-run partnership.
Shaaiq Choudhry (1-13) halted Gloucestershire's charge with a fine spell and was rewarded by trapping Dan Christian (3) lbw.
Even Klinger was becoming frustrated by the left-arm spinner but soon got back into his stride when his opposite number Daryl Mitchell brought himself on, hitting three sixes down the ground in an over that went for 25.
After piling on 65 in five overs with Klinger, Alex Gidman (18) was floored in the penultimate over of the innings by a second beamer from Chris Russell, who was not allowed to bowl again, and after receiving treatment the former skipper was bowled in the next ball by Andrew (1-20).
Klinger reached his ton in the final over with a single to mid-off, giving his side a big score to defend.
Worcestershire's reply got off to a terrible start when Moeen Ali (1) drove a full James Fuller delivery straight to substitute fielder Dan Housego at extra cover in the first over and Sri Lanka international Thilan Samaraweera (2) bizarrely hit straight in the air off Christian (1-30) to Benny Howell at slip to leave them on 4-2.
Worcestershire skipper Mitchell was unable to follow Klinger's footsteps and badly mistimed a pull shot to be caught by Fuller off Payne for 11 after adding 35 with Alexei Kervezee.
Tom Smith (1-39) was hit for two successive big sixes by Andre Russell (12) in the next over but came back to trap the West Indian international lbw on the last ball.
Payne made a good diving catch running round from short third man to remove Andrew (3) off Howell and Christian capitalised on a mix-up to run out Aneesh Kapil (3) with a throw from deep in the covers as Worcestershire slumped to 70-6.
Kervezee's (39) resistance was finally broken when he hit straight to Fuller at long-off to give Howell (2-28) another wicket, and Cox also showed some fight with a quick-fire 37 off 24 balls before being trapped lbw by Fuller.
Payne was the pick of Gloucestershire's bowlers and had Choudhry (8) caught by Smith at third man to finish with 2-14 from his four overs before Fuller (3-23) had Jack Shantry (8) caught behind by Gareth Roderick from the final ball of the innings.