Match Report: Kent Spitfires vs. Lancashire

Match Report: Kent Spitfires vs. Lancashire

Kent Spitfires faced Lancashire in their final match of Group B in the Royal London Cup.

A thrilling finish at Canterbury saw the Kent Spitfires qualify for the Royal London Cup quarter-finals with a two-wicket win over Lancashire, in Darren Stevens’ white-ball swansong at The Spitfire Ground.

View full scorecard

Kent were in deep trouble on 190 for six, but Harry Podmore hit Luke Wells’ penultimate ball for four to send Kent through to the knock-out stages, after a day of raw, unfiltered tension.

Stevens hit 49 in his final List A innings at the St. Lawrence, but he was nearly upstaged by Lancashire’s George Balderson, who played a high-risk innings and was rewarded with an unbeaten 106 from 87 balls. Josh Bohannon was the visitors’ next highest-scorer with 75 as Lancashire recovered from 95 for five to post 295-9. Nathan Gilchrist claimed three for 52 and Harry Podmore three for 53.

Alex Blake was Kent’s top scorer with 81 and his century stand with Stevens kept the Spitfires in contention before Podmore finished the job, with Kent closing on 298 for eight.

The hosts needed to win to stand any chance of reaching the quarter-finals, while hoping Yorkshire lost to Hampshire. Lancashire, having already qualified, were trying to overhaul Hampshire at the top of the Group B table.

Kent chose to field first and Grant Stewart made an early breakthrough when he had Luke Wells caught behind for a duck in the third over.

Gilchrist then bowled Keaton Jennings for 17 and had Steven Croft lbw for nought, but Bohannon and Dane Vilas put on 51 for the next wicket before Podmore removed the latter for 22 after a brilliant diving catch by Hamid Qadri at square leg.

When Rob Jones charged at Qadri he was stumped by Ollie Robinson for nine, but Bohannon and Balderson rebuilt the innings as conditions improved.

Their stand of 101 was ended when Bohannon skied Qadri to Gilchrist but George Lavelle maintained the momentum with 24 from 13 balls before he spooned Podmore to Alex Blake.

Podmore then removed Danny Lamb, caught behind for eight, but Balderson reached three figures when he hooked Stewart for four in the penultimate over.

Although Gilchrist subsequently bowled Tom Bailey for nine it was still Lancashire’s highest List A score against Kent and when Jack Blatherwick took two wickets in three balls the target looked a long way off.

Ben Compton went for three in the third over of the chase when Lamb took a juggling catch at first slip off and Ollie Robinson lasted just two balls before Blatherwick had him caught behind for a duck.

Joe Denly produced a couple of elegant fours but was lbw to Bailey for 13, before the same bowler had Joey Evison caught and bowled for 20. At 53 for four the stage was set for Stevens and with Alex Blake he hauled Kent back into contention as they put on 105 for the next wicket.

Back in the year 2000 Stevens had played for Leicestershire against a Kent side that included Wells’ father Alan and he hit successive Wells Junior deliveries for six before falling just short of his half-century, caught and bowled by Croft. He departed to a standing ovation and kissed his helmet before entering the pavilion.

Blake then chipped Wells to Jennings, but Harry Finch and Grant Stewart hit back with a 73-run partnership.

When Stewart hit Balderson for successive sixes Kent looked favourites, but he fell for 49, caught by Croft off Blatherwick, just as news filtered through that Yorkshire had lost.

Podmore joined Finch and whittled away at the target, with every run cheered by the crowd of 2,101, to leave Kent needing three from the final over, but Finch hit Wells first delivery to Vilas.

The next two were dots and Wells missed a difficult return catch as Qadri scrambled a single from the fourth, leaving Podmore to drive the winning boundary through the covers. Kent now have a quarter-final trip to Stevens’ home county Leicestershire.

View full scorecard

Kent’s Darren Stevens said: “We’re really pleased, we had a couple of sticky moments and the boys were biting their nails upstairs but we’re happy that Podders hit a nice little cover drive to get us over the line. It was good fun, the stand was needed at the time after losing a few wickets early on.

“I was a bit nervous and it was nice getting butterflies before I went in, I enjoyed the sixes a lot. It’s sad times, it’s my last (white-ball) game at Kent, but it’s good to be out there. It’s just a shame I didn’t go on and win the game like I wanted to.”

[On facing his old county in the QF]: “You couldn’t have written it could you? It’s a different challenge, a different place to play. We haven’t played white ball cricket there for a long time. We’ll do our work over the next couple of days to figure out how we’re going to play it.”

Kent’s Alex Blake said: “Obviously we’re delighted, it was bit tense there at the end. Credit to the boys, I got out at a pretty vital stage and then Grant and Finchy kept batting superbly to tick it off. We lost a wicket in that last over, but then Podders did it again, like he did at Worcester four years ago.

“It was a bit emotional when Darren got out, but we were still hoping we were going to win. It was still a good wicket, there was a short boundary on one side and we saw that they put on runs at the end so we just had to keep being positive. I played my shots, Darren came in and played his shots and it helped with right hand, left hand combination. Unfortunately we both got out but I love batting with Darren and he’s still an unbelievable player, the way he strikes the ball. It was an emotional day, the show goes on, on Friday at Leicester.”

The Spitfire Ground, St Lawrence will once again host a full England Women’s One-Day International (WODI) match in 2022, with a Royal London WODI against India under the lights in Canterbury on Wednesday, 21 September.

Buy tickets now