As Kent prepare for their first white-ball final for ten years, it’s set to be a momentous day for both the club and its supporters.
Deep Extra Cover got the views of Kent fan Lettie Hadley ahead of the Royal London One-Day Cup final on Saturday and she started by explaining what it is that has got Kent into this final.
“With a few new faces in the team and Allan Donald joining the coaching staff I think most Kent fans would say, after losing the first two games in the Royal London One-Day Cup, a Lord’s final seemed as though it was a million miles away.
“However, with the new vision of Joe Denly leading the side before Sam Billings returned from England duty, we managed to turn it around a play a brand of cricket I haven’t seen Kent play in a long time. This tournament has seemed more special than previous years having played effectively knockout cricket after the first two losses.
“Everyone in the team has contributed whether it be bat, ball or in the field with someone stepping up putting in a match-winning performance across every game. Having done the drive down to Southampton for the must-win game against a strong Hampshire team, posting 294 seemed a competitive score having taken a couple of early wickets.
“However, with Hampshire needing only four off the final over, Matt Henry showed his class and defended it bowling one of the best overs I’ve seen, giving Kent a one-run win and it kick-started a five-game winning streak, earning our place in the qualifying rounds and they haven’t looked back since.”
Every team needs some standout stars to make it so far in the competition. One name certainly stands out for Kent this season, but Lettie believes a number of players have contributed to the success of the side in the One-Day Cup.
“Our key players this year have been hard to ignore. Since Heino Kuhn joined Kent at the beginning of the season on a Kolpak deal from South Africa, his experience of playing at the highest level of the game in high-pressure situations has proved to be invaluable.
“Hitting four centuries in five games, which was an English List A record, he’s the leading run-scorer in the tournament – scoring 664 runs in 10 games at an average of 94. The final hundred in the semi-final against Worcestershire held our innings together and helped us over the line.
“Alex Blake has also been key to our batting this year with his destructive middle-order hitting, either pushing on totals in the first innings, getting us above 350, or reducing the run rate required in the second innings and keeping us in the game.
“Our bowlers have been ever reliable this season with the experience of Darren Stevens alongside Matt Henry; they have both taken 16 wickets and have regularly taken wickets in the powerplay or restricted runs in the middle overs. Despite picking out those four players, its hard not to mention the consistency of Joe Denly at the top of the order and his captaincy in the early games, alongside Imran Qayyum who has been our main spin option – regularly taking wickets with an economy below six which has been invaluable in the middle powerplay.”
Kent face Hampshire in the final at Lord’s after enjoying some red-ball success in recent weeks. This final is set to be a special occasion for the club and a day that Lettie is very much looking forward to.
“It’s going to be a very special day for every Kent fan on Saturday with it being our first Lord’s final since 2008. Each player who has played in this tournament has stepped up which will no doubt make the final decision on who plays in the XI at Lord’s a very challenging one.
“Having played two Championship games since the semi-final and getting strong wins against Division Two leaders Warwickshire and Middlesex, which has put us firmly in a promotion place, confidence is high after those two games.
“We will go into the game with every belief we can bring home the trophy. Whoever plays, it will be a day in history I can’t wait to be at.”