Kent fans could have been forgiven for thinking the season was over after the heartbreaking tie/loss to Lancashire at Canterbury in the quarter-final of the NatWest T20 Blast.
A packed crowd, a nerve-shredding dramatic finish and rather than a “Super Over” as is the norm elsewhere in the world, ultimately a loss on “fewer wickets” when it looked possible for Kent to snatch a famous victory from an almost impossible position thanks to a magnificent over by Coles (one, wicket, wicket, dot, two…).
Unfortunately I missed it all, I was in Burslem watching Gillingham draw 1-1 with Port Vale. It isn’t as glamorous as it sounds! I listened to the denouement standing on Longport Station relaying my mate’s ad-hoc commentary via my mobile phone to about thirty other Gills fans who were all very interested to hear what was happening back in the Garden of England.
The last ball deflection off the stumps could have gone anywhere, but it tipped the way of the Red Rose mob and all I got was my mate uttering a string of Anglo-Saxon expletives down the line.
My shoulders slumped, I stared at the ground, bemoaned the clash of fixtures thanks to Kent hosting the Women’s Kia Test, imagined how everyone was feeling in Canterbury and sulked all the way back from Stoke-on-Trent to Euston.
Two days later the Kent players had to go again away to Nottinghamshire in the Royal London Cup. The well fancied hosts were top of the table having won all their completed fixtures and chasing a win to clinch win the group whilst Kent simply needed a win to keep any realistic chance of continuing in the competition.
What occurred was extraordinary, Notts clobbered Kent to all corners of Trent Bridge, they reached 331-4 off 47.4 overs and must have been eyeing 350, then it all got a bit silly.
I was listening online and was as bemused as anyone as Matt Coles took a hat-trick and Notts lost their last six wickets for four runs in ten balls! 335 all out off 49.2 overs was still a daunting enough target but perhaps Kent had given themselves a glimmer of a chance…
Well what happened next was really rather splendid as Kent chased down the monster target with two balls to spare.
Bell-Drummond anchored the innings with 73, Cowdrey biffed a crucial run a ball 51 to accelerate at the perfect time and Billings with a majestic 118* and Blake 50* timed the final rampant push for victory to perfection.
A stunning response to the events of just two days earlier. It then rained at Edgbaston and virtually everywhere else on the final day of group games to see Kent squeak through in 4th spot into the last eight. It left Lancashire bemoaning the weather along with Warwickshire as for once the elements conspired to do Kent a favour.
They now head to the Oval to play group winners Surrey. The whole season depends on this game given promotion in the Championship is a mathematical impossibility and the only promotion party they’ll be hosting is likely to be Lancashire’s sometime next week.
I’ll be heading to the Oval along with many Kent fans hoping for a repeat of the heroics at Trent Bridge. Surrey might be the media darlings and the moneybags outfit but Kent have risen to the occasion on more than one occasion this summer.
The fact that Kent Members and Six Pack holders can gain entrance for free should add to the attendance and perhaps even tip the advantage towards Kent given our fans appear far more interested in the 50 over competition than those at other counties.
Let’s turn it into a “home” game and cheer the Kent boys on.
The draw for the semi-final means the winners will host Nottinghamshire, obviously a rematch and repeat of the madcap match at Trent Bridge would suit us all just fine in Canterbury… but first is the small matter of the quarter-final against our nearest and dearest neighbours… enjoy!