Kent Spitfires head to Vitality Blast Finals Day for the first time in 12 years as they look to win England’s premier T20 competition for the second time in their history.
Kent will face Sussex Sharks in the second semi-final on the day, beginning at 14:30, in what will be one of the most hotly anticipated ‘South Coast Derby’ clashes in recent memory.
All four teams competing in 2021’s Vitality Blast Finals Day come from the South Group of the competition – with Kent taking solace in the fact that the Spitfires topped the group by a point after the first stage of the tournament.
Spitfires openers Daniel Bell-Drummond and Zak Crawley have both razed over 300 runs each this season, with Bell-Drummond’s 392 runs at an average of 35.63 topping Kent’s run charts, whilst Crawley’s strike rate of 157.14 is the highest of any Spitfires batter to score more than 100 runs.
The pair also have the most sixes to their name in T20 cricket for Kent this season, 17 and 14 respectively, closely followed by Jack Leaning with 13.
Jordan Cox’s batting average of 51.50 is the highest of any Kent player in the tournament, including his four not-out innings across the Vitality Blast this year.
Matt Milnes, who was recently named as Kent’s 220th Capped Player, currently has 18 wickets for the Spitfires in this season’s Blast, including a maiden five-wicket haul in T20 cricket against Glamorgan during the group stages.
Netherlands international Fred Klaassen has 14 wickets at 24.21, whilst Joe Denly has eight wickets with his leg spin at an economy rate of 7.20.
How we got to Edgbaston
Kent Spitfires booked their place at the Vitality Blast Finals Day with a 21-run win over Birmingham Bears in front of a raucous crowd at Canterbury, snapping a streak of three quarter-final defeats in the previous six seasons.
Matt Milnes took four for 24, Jack Leaning two for seven and Qais Ahmad two for 13, as the Spitfires smothered the Bears, who finished on 141 all out, chasing Kent’s 162 for seven. Jacob Lintott was their top scorer with a gutsy 41, after the top order collapsed.
Sam Billings earlier hit 56 and Daniel Bell-Drummond 53 for Kent. Tim Bresnan took four for 26, with Chris Woakes claiming one for 37 on his return from injury.
Kent were put in and lost Zak Crawley for just four when he lofted Woakes to Adam Hose in the second over.
Denly was deceived by Bresnan’s slower ball and caught by Lintott for 11 but Bell-Drummond and Billings rebuilt the innings with a stand of 50, the former smashing Danny Briggs for successive sixes, before he suffered a freak dismissal when Billings’ drive crashed into his stumps and ricocheted to Lintott, who ran him out.
Leaning was caught and bowled by Craig Miles for seven and Alex Blake holed out to Bresnan and was caught by Chris Benjamin for eight. Woakes’ last over, the 19th, went for 16, but Bresnan took wickets from successive balls, getting Billings caught on the boundary, before Sam Hain took a juggling catch to remove Jordan Cox for nine.
Adam Milne hit the hat-trick ball for six and finished on eight not out, but the target looked low until Birmingham lurched to 55 for six in reply.
Hose was stumped off Denly by Billings for eight and Benjamin was caught and bowled by Matt Milnes for 11. Ahmad bowled Rob Yates’ off stump for 19 and Leaning trapped Hain lbw for five before bowling Will Rhodes with a full toss for three. Michael Burgess swiped Ahmad to Crawley for six and Woakes made 14 before he skied Milnes to Blake.
Although Lintott and Bresnan went down swinging, Milne bowled the former, leaving the Bears needing 25 from Milnes’ final over. Cox took a superb catch to get rid of Bresnan for 24, stepping over the rope and back in again, before Miles skied the final delivery to Blake.
Semi-final opposition report
Sussex Sharks finished third in the South Group this year, taking six wins from nine completed matches, before defeating Yorkshire by five wickets in the final over at Durham in the first Quarter Final to book their place at Edgbaston.
Rashid Khan’s brilliant unbeaten 27 off nine balls fired Sussex Sharks to Vitality Blast Finals Day as they chased 178 in a pulsating Quarter Final at Emirates Riverside.
The Sharks will, however, have to make do without Afghanistan international Rashid Khan for Finals Day.
Paceman Tymal Mills leads Sussex with wickets this year, with 14 wickets in eight innings at 14.78, whilst Namibia all-rounder David Wiese and teenager Archie Lenham both have 11 wickets apiece so far.
With the bat, skipper Luke Wright has led by example in the Blast with 360 runs at 45.00, followed by Phil Salt (293), who will leave Sussex to join Lancashire at the end of the season, and former Essex Eagle Ravi Bopara (237).
Other semi-finalists reports
- South Group finish: Fourth – 15 points
- Quarter Final result: Def. Notts Outlaws by two runs
- Top run-scorer: James Vince (371 @ 33.72)
- Top wicket-taker: Scott Currie (17 @ 12.58)
- South Group finish: Second – 18 points
- Quarter Final result: Def. Lancashire Lightning by seven wickets
- Top run-scorer: Will Smeed (327 @ 32.70)
- Top wicket-taker: Marchant de Lange (17 @ 20.23)
How to follow the action
Vitality Blast Finals Day will be shown live on Sky Sports in the UK, beginning from the first semi-final between Hampshire Hawks and Somerset due to commence from 11:00.
There will therefore be no live streaming service for Finals Day, however a live scorecard will be running in the Match Centre on the Kent Cricket website.
We’ve named a 16-strong travelling playing squad for Edgbaston.
Alex Blake has been ruled out of Finals Day after sustaining a forearm injury. Qais Ahmad has travelled to Birmingham with the squad, with team selection still to be decided.
Sam Billings will captain the side in his first Finals Day. Darren Stevens and Joe Denly have represented Kent in the Finals Days of 2007, ’08 and ’09, Matt Quinn was a part of the victorious Eagles squad of 2019, and Jack Leaning was at Finals Day in 2016 with Yorkshire Vikings.