County cricket: Kent win T20 Blast as Championship enters final week

Ball one: Organ gets a tune out of the Rose Bowl pitch

Hampshire beat Nottinghamshire in Southampton, ending their opponent’s run of good form and leapfrogging them to top the table before the final round of fixtures.

In a week that was all about scraping together the kind of scores that keep a side in the game, Nick Gubbins’ 54 found support in three 30s from James Vince, Liam Dawson and Felix Organ, lifting the home side to 226. The admirable Keith Barker then used his street-smart mix of in-swingers and pushers-across to snare the first seven Notts’ wickets and send statisticians to their databases (spoiler alert – he didn’t get any more).

Vince scored a half-century in Hampshire’s second dig and, while a target of 250 looked eminently gettable, it’s never easy being asked to make the highest total of the match to win it. Notts barely got halfway, the spin of Dawson and Organ, both of whom enjoyed fine matches, seeing the points, and the top spot, go to the home side.

Ball two: White Rose wilts as Bears roar

Bowlers were also on top at Headingley (in September – well I never) but Michael Burgess did the keeper-batsman’s thing and counterattacked the seamers, his 66 the lion’s share of Warwickshire’s 155. That score looked a lot better by the end of the first day, after Chris Woakes, Liam Norwell and Craig Miles had reduced the home side to 95-8, Gary Ballance en route to grinding out a three-hour 58.

Jordan Thompson and Steve Patterson knocked the top off the Warwickshire second innings, before Dom Sibley found a partner in Burgess, on his way to scoring over 100 runs in the match. Nous down the order from ex-Tyke Tim Bresnan left Yorkshire with 224 runs to get to keep their hopes of the pennant alive. Woakes, Norwell and Miles saw them off for 177, Bresnan picking up one wicket for old times’ sake.

Warwickshire moved into second, two and a half points behind Hampshire; Yorkshire need snookers to secure a tilt at the Bob Willis Trophy.

Ball three: Sun sets on Somerset’s Championship campaign

Lancashire will go to Liverpool – the happy hunting ground of their 2011 Championship – still in with the shout of another pennant. For that, they have to thank Somerset, who were left desperately trying to reattach the wheels to their bandwagon before Blast Finals Day, because they have well and truly fallen off in the red-ball format.

The visitors were always able to arrest a potential first-innings collapse with handy scores dotted through the order, Luke Wells notching a ton and Josh Bohannon, Steven Croft and quasi all-rounder Tom Bailey adding half-centuries to post a total of 373. Only Azhar Ali offered resistance worthy of the name, as Somerset were then rolled for 90, nine wickets shared by that Dickensian firm of solicitors, Bailey, Balderson and Blatherwick.

As sides so often do when asked to have another go, the hosts made a better fist of it second time round (except captain, Tom Abell, who completed a miserable pair), Tom Lammonby’s round 100 ensuring a third successive defeat by an innings was averted. He was one of Luke Wells’ three victims, taking his season’s tally to seven. If it’s your match, it’s your match.

Fans enjoy Finals Day at Edgbaston.
Fans enjoy Finals Day at Edgbaston. Photograph: Harry Trump/Getty Images

Ball four: Somerset bounce back

The 19th Twenty20 Finals Day began at 11am with plenty of the ticket holders already in their seats. They may not have been fans of the four participants – the day sells out before their identities are known – but they are fans of cricket and they were treated to a topsy-turvy match that showed how the pendulum can swing hither and thither over 40 overs.

At 26-3, Somerset were ahead, but Joe Weatherley was motoring having already shown he was fully switched on by advising the umpires of a powerplay no ball that they hadn’t spotted – Marchant de Lange, to his credit, sheepishly admitted to not being penned into the circle. Weatherley knew that if he batted through, Hampshire would stay in the game because there’s almost always someone with a 20-odd or so at the other end. He was rewarded with 71 runs of his own, so Hampshire’s bowlers had the job of holding the batsmen to 150 or fewer to progress.

Somerset’s top order have been less reliable than their lower order recently, so 34-5 was not fatal, though Hampshire had a spring in their step. But when Tom Abell was out for a well constructed 50, the ask was 48 runs from 20 balls, with No8 and No9 in occupation. Ben Green hit one four and three sixes; Craig Overton hit a six; and Josh Davey hit a six and a four. Hampshire walked off shellshocked. Somerset were jubilant and contemplating what to do for a few hours before their final.

Ball five: Klaassen top of the class

Kent played Sussex in the second semi-final later in the afternoon. Daniel Bell-Drummond played the Weatherley role, hitting his own runs, but waiting for a partner to hit theirs too. At 94-5, he found one in, it will surprise nobody to learn, 45 year-old Darren Stevens, who remained unbeaten having set a stiff target of 169 for Sussex.

Kent restricted the chase using the old-fashioned tactic of continually taking wickets, with Fred Klaassen and Matt Milnes cast as those familiar early autumn characters, the journeymen bowlers who shine when a one-day trophy is at stake. Sussex played only one teenager from their youthful Championship side, Archie Lenham – maybe they should have played more – and Kent were in the final.

Ball six: Cox the apple of Kent’s eyes

Kent wicketkeeper-batsman Jordan Cox found himself not just on the boundary, but over it and in mid-air, where he palmed the ball back into the field of play and into the hands of Matt Milnes. It was a spectacular catch, if a relatively common skill practised assiduously for just such an occasion. Added to his 58 not out, the catch guaranteed he was given the headlines in a match that was a little short on stories.

Kent’s 167 was enough for them to apply the same tactic as had worked a few hours earlier and the wickets turned up with the same regularity, Somerset’s tail wagging, but not as much as in their semi-final. Six Kent bowlers took at least one wicket and none conceded 10 an over, proving an old adage that applies even more in autumnal England than anywhere: the team with the better bowlers tends to win cricket matches.

Finals Day is about more than its sport. It’s about a heaving, roaring carnivalesque slew of humanity, ugly and funny, fraternal and hostile, witty and witless. No committee stocked with marketers and administrators planned what this day has become – it’s more the realisation of an unconscious collective nostalgia for the days when the assizes would come to town, or hundreds-strong street parties would be held for Royal Jubilees or seaside venues would fill up for knobbly knees competitions. It’s easy to sneer at such things – and they’re not for everyone – but, after the last 18 months, nobody can say they are not needed every bit as much as the air we breathe.

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