Kent 167/7 beat Somerset 142/9 by 25 runs
Kent celebrated their first T20 title in 14 years, twirling their way to a well-deserved 25-run victory over Somerset in the Blast final at Edgbaston.
Jordan Cox struck a fine unbeaten 58 as part of an accomplished performance before Joe Denly took three wickets as Somerset never looked like chasing the 168 needed for victory.
"It's been a long time coming," Kent captain Sam Billings enthused. "And it's for the fans as much as us. It's what we are about, giving young guys an environment to flourish. Credit to those guys, they work so hard at their game.
"I won't be getting out of the kit for the whole night, we’ll get the families in and enjoy the night. It's for the whole squad."
If earlier semi-final victories for Kent and Somerset - over Sussex and Hampshire respectively - had yielded success through seam, then the final was all about making the batters flounder to spin.
Somerset's left arm spin duo of Roelof van der Merwe and Lewis Goldworthy set the scene with four of their side’s five bowling wickets before Kent quickly clocked on, opting for the leg spin of Denly to open their own attack. Denly, who had only managed three runs with the bat in his two innings of the day, promptly picked up as many wickets, including Tom Banton, stumped off the second ball of Somerset’s chase.
Ultimately, that Somerset only introduced spin in the sixth over may have been what cost them. By the time van der Merwe entered, Kent’s openers of Daniel Bell-Drummond (18 from 15) and Zak Crawley (41 from 33) had already cruised to 40 between them. Van der Merwe’s double fist-pump celebration has become a familiar sight of late, as he picked up three wickets for 19 runs to add to his four for 27 in Somerset’s quarter-final win over Lancashire some weeks ago.
Brought in for the final over of the Powerplay to break Kent’s opening stand, a boundary from his first delivery didn’t deter the Dutchman. Van der Merwe is a man not afraid to flight the ball up to the right-handed batter, tempting them, hopefully, into one audacious stroke too many. Sometimes he leaks runs; more often than not van der Merwe poaches key wickets. Following that first delivery, Van der Merwe’s next 11 balls produced three wickets for just four runs.
To Somerset’s slow left arm spin figures of four wickets for 46, Kent’s leg spin countered with five wickets for 50 runs between Denly and Afghan international Qais Ahmad. Not that there wasn’t some superb cricket coming from the other disciplines too. Kent’s Cox challenged cricketing convention by belting an unbeaten 58 off 28 balls from number six.
It’s the top five who are meant to dig deep and set things up but Cox, entering the crease with his side 75 for four in the 12th over, took matters into his own hands. It didn’t worry him that he’d succumbed to a golden duck in the semi, which his team eventually won by 21 runs. Nor that it took until the 18th over for Cox to score his first boundary, with Kent seemingly behind the rate and Cox himself struggling to get beyond a run-a-ball. He soon made up for lost time. Having managed just 17 from his first 20 deliveries, his next eight yielded three sixes and by the time Kent’s innings came to a close he’d helped them set up a competitive total for a final.
Two catches in the deep, including a stunning effort leaping over the boundary rope to pat the ball back into the hands of Matt Milnes while he was mid-air, rounded off a solid night for the 20 year-old. Importantly for Kent, one of Cox’s victims included Will Smeed, who backed up some impressive performances this summer with a spirited 32-ball 43 to kick off Somerset’s innings.
What a night Cox is having!
Now he brilliantly claws back a certain six to set up a relay catch for Milnes and get rid of Gregory!💪
Somerset are suddenly 94-6 in #Blast21 final, chasing 169
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— Sky Sports Cricket (@SkyCricket) September 18, 2021
Cox thought he had caught Smeed three balls earlier when the Somerset batter appeared to have toe-ended a Denly delivery down the throat of Cox, running across from deep mid-wicket. However, the umpires determined that, as Cox had taken the catch while in contact with a sliding Bell-Drummond, whose body was at that point beyond the boundary edge, Smeed should be awarded six runs instead of being dismissed. Smeed, however, was then dismissed just moments later.
🤯'Oh, he'll go nuts!'🤯
Bizarre! Cox's boundary catch is ruled a six because he was in contact with a team-mate touching the fence...
Then Cox takes another catch to dismiss Smeed for 43!👏
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— Sky Sports Cricket (@SkyCricket) September 18, 2021
By the time he fell, just beyond the halfway mark with the score 79 for four, the chase soon steepened. Despite a useful 20-ball 26 from Tom Abell, it became only a matter of time before Kent triumphed for the first time since 2007.
Semi final reports
Somerset 153/8 beat Hampshire 150ao by 2 wickets with 2 balls remaining
Four wickets and whipping away the winning runs with two balls remaining isn’t a bad way to start a weekend, nor a Finals Day. Josh Davey, the Scottish international, was Somerset’s saviour first with ball and then more surprisingly with bat as they chased down Hampshire’s 150 in Saturday’s first semi final at Edgbaston.
At 34 for five and seven overs in, victory had looked unlikely. Somerset’s naivety first in the field and then in the batting middle order looked to have undone a young side seeking their first Twenty20 title in 16 years. Having picked up regular Hampshire wickets, including captain James Vince for just two, Somerset appeared to have made further inroads come the final ball of Hampshire’s batting Powerplay.
Joe Weatherley, then on 24, mistimed a slog-sweep to square leg. Only Weatherley, who might now add 'canny rules sage' to his CV, had spotted something Somerset hadn’t. Three fielders had erroneously been placed outside the ring instead of the two allowed in the Powerplay. Weatherley had effectively granted himself a free hit. A scrambled single while the (non–) catch was taken, plus two runs for the no-ball and then a six from the free-hit which followed meant that Somerset, having thought that they had their opponents four down for 37, found them instead on 46 for three.
Somerset’s dismay was further compounded as Weatherley first steadied Hampshire through a tricky middle period before launching at the end. Marchant de Lange conceded four sixes in five balls come the final overs before Weatherley finally fell off the innings’ penultimate delivery. A 51-ball 71 and Hampshire, who had already defended 125 to overcome Nottinghamshire in the quarter final, may have felt optimistic about their prospects.
When Somerset’s seventh over saw two wickets fall in two balls, first a risky run-out and then Tom Lammonby for the game’s second golden duck, that optimism soon turned to confidence. An "uncomfortable stage of the required run rate", observed former Somerset batter Peter Trego on commentary.
Somerset’s red-ball captain Tom Abell, however, had other ideas. Exuding classic elegance in a format better known for the opposite, what at first seemed a lone act of defiance ended as a composed 35-ball 50.
A quick-fire 35 from 18 from Ben Green and all of a sudden Somerset needed just 10 from the final over. Cue Josh Davey’s unbeaten 11 from three deliveries and Somerset, whose 2019 One-Day Cup crown ended a 14-year trophy drought, keep themselves in contention for another.
Kent 168/8 beat Sussex 147ao by 21 runs
On a Finals Day featuring sides exclusively from the Blast’s Southern Group, table-toppers Kent mustered all their experience to see off a spirited Sussex chase in the day’s second semi final. Following on from a nervy low-scoring thriller in the previous match, a 51-run 82 by Daniel Bell-Drummond steered Kent to 168 for eight, a total that was always going to be difficult to overcome. So it proved, the seam of Fred Klaassen and Matt Milnes combined to pick up seven wickets for just 39 runs, leaving Sussex 21 runs short.
Bell-Drummond’s innings was all deft nudges, late cuts and fine glances. A tall, willowy figure full of promise, he has never quite put himself into contention for higher honours. Finals Day therefore, a marquee day for any domestic player, offered a rare opportunity to deliver when the stage was his. There was nothing overpowering, nor too muscled in the way he approached things in what was a measured, purposeful and very effective innings.
Even the boisterous Eric Hollies’ stand, already deep into their afternoon drinking jamboree, could appreciate the skill on show, offering a standing ovation when Bell-Drummond eventually fell, heaving to deep mid-wicket in the 17th over.
Both sides offered an eclectic mix of youth and experience. The 17 year-old Archie Lenham, the youngest player to ever feature in a Finals Day, whirled down two economical overs of legspin while Darren Stevens, by contrast the oldest player on such an occasion, beat his age by two with the bat to post a 28-ball 47. Like his 24-year long career, Stevens ended unbeaten.
Spin had played an important role in Sussex’s advance to Finals Day. However, it was seam on Saturday in the form of Tymal Mills, newly recalled to England’s T20 squad, and George Garton, who flies out to play in the IPL on Sunday, who combined to stop Kent cantering away. Garton made the first inroads, dismissing both Joe Denly and Zak Crawley for single figures before Mills settled into the middle order, picking up three for 33 from his four overs.
Kent, however, were taking notes and reciprocated with some seam of their own in the form of left-arm quick Klaassen and his right-arm partner Milnes. Klaassen’s four for 17 was the standout and when Milnes (three for 22) hurried George Garton (41 from 23) in the 16th over, the game was up.