Zak Crawley was just nine years old when Kent last won England’s domestic T20 tournament. Now 23, the opening batter is still one of the younger members of the Spitfires squad, but he remembers the day well.
“I was nine,” he says, reminiscing. “I remember watching it though – it was an unbelievable win. We were big Kent fans in the household. I grew up in Kent and I have always been a Kent fan, so I was pretty happy that day.
“I reckon I was more nervous the year after when we lost narrowly. I always thought we were going to win it in 2007, but 2008 was a bit tighter and we ended up losing. It is exciting watching T20 cricket, especially when your side is doing well.”
He has heard about it, too. Several members of the Kent setup played that day, including current players Joe Denly and Darren Stevens and head coach Matt Walker.
“It comes up quite a bit,” Crawley laughs. “’Walks’ and Joe for different reasons…
“They talk about it a lot. It is obviously a day we all want to be a part of, and they make it sound pretty special, so all the young lads are looking forward to it.”
“In 2007, even 2008 and 2009 when we got to Finals Day again, I was watching Kent play and wanted to be a part of it. It was a big part of why I wanted to be a cricketer, watching things like that.”
Crawley has been on some journey since 2007. From representing Kent at under-13 level to becoming a Test centurion, the Bromley-born man has already seen it all.
He says himself that he is going to have to draw on all his experience, but that he likes the pressure.
“I think the last couple of years have helped me,” he says. “I have played in front of some big crowds in Test cricket and in The Hundred this year too. So I am fairly used to it by now, but I am sure will be nervous on the day. It means a lot to do well individually and as a team.
“It is easy to say it is like any other game, but it isn’t. It is a big occasion and I think that is the best way to go at it; accept it will be a big occasion and you will be nervous and embrace that and use the nerves in your favour.
“T20 is a fast-paced game and I think nerves are really good. It fires you up a bit and it keeps you on edge. We won’t be lackadaisical, that’s for sure. I hope everyone is nervous because that is the best way to be.”
Crawley may have already achieved plenty in his career, but that hasn’t made him any less hungry to win silverware with Kent. On Saturday he has the chance to do that, and can’t wait to get going.
“What I’ve wanted to do with Kent is win silverware,” he says. “It looks like a lot of fun when you win trophies and that is the one thing we haven’t quite done yet since I have been here.
“We aren’t there to have a good day out, we’re there to win it, win both games convincingly, and then we can celebrate nicely in the evening.
“If we lose in the Semi Final it’s the same feeling to losing in the Quarter Final. It’s a great day, and it will be awesome to be a part of it, but it will be extremely disappointing if we lose the Semi Final.
“I will only be happy with one result on Saturday and that’s a win. If we lose the Final, everyone will say good effort, but I won’t be at all happy with that.”
Crawley feels Kent’s time is now. He has a winning mentality, and is starving for victory.
He pauses, grins, and says: “It would be massive to win it.
“If you win silverware, you remember it. No one ever talks about individual stuff, just what they won, so it is massively important.
“It would be nice to hit the winning runs, of course it would! But I don’t care who hits them as long as they are winning runs. It would be awesome to whack a boundary to win it, but I don’t care if it’s nicked over the ‘keepers head by the number 11; as long as we get the winning runs.”
Crawley is dreaming, and the rest of the county of Kent may well be starting to do the same.
By Lewis Browning