RLODC Final: Hampshire on target to end dreams of luckless Kent

RLODC Final: Hampshire on target to end dreams of luckless Kent

Pic via ECB, with thanks

 

How best to topple a giant, they wondered — in the Compton and Grand Stands, in the media centre, probably even in the Hampshire dressing room.

If you’d offered up the option of literally toppling Heino Kuhn, there would have been some mighty funny looks. And perhaps the odd reminder that this is Lord’s, not Twickenham.

Still, topple Kuhn they did, in every sense of the word.

His literal fall from grace was a by-product of his dismissal, rather than Hampshire’s plan to dismiss the batsman with four centuries in five previous Royal London One-Day Cup innings. But topple him they did.

As Kuhn, on 32, looked to steal a single to cover, Gareth Berg — the oldest man in the team — made a clean, sharp pickup. He took a handful of quick steps to his right and dived for the stumps, releasing his throw in the process.

As Kuhn too belatedly made his ground, his bat jammed into Berg’s left elbow, and as the big screen showed he was short of the crease, concern arose over Berg’s welfare. He was quickly fine; his luck was far better than that of his opponents.

It would be harsh on Hampshire to suggest that fortune won them this final — they played some strong cricket throughout the match. Captain James Vince believed it was a ‘very pleasing’ overall performance — but certainly, it fell into the routine of everything going for them, and everything against Kent.

Ironically enough, centurion Rilee Rossouw had come into the match as though he had been cursed. Sure, he hit a Specsavers County Championship hundred at Lancashire this week, but he had his two front teeth knocked out in the One-Day Cup semi-final and was stuck in a lift for 80 minutes the night before the final.

When he departed the field having scored 125, it should have been the first sign that this was to be his and Hampshire’s day and that Kent were out of luck.

Kuhn’s run out was Kent’s first, but it wasn’t their last. By the time Vince was doused in champagne as he held aloft his first trophy as captain, his fielders had run out three more batsmen.

Alex Blake, batting a spot too low for the situation (Kent needed 162 from 15.2 overs when he came in at number six), creamed Liam Dawson for six over midwicket. Two balls later Mason Crane ran him out with a direct hit from deep backward square — such was his accuracy that he hit middle stump with just one and a half to aim at.

Kent crawled to 241-7, by which time the game was virtually lost, and their next two wickets fell in seven balls. First Calum Haggett, to a third direct hit. This one was simple enough: Vince, at mid off, had three stumps and plenty of time to set himself. Middle stump went flying, the third umpire was not needed.

And then Harry Podmore, attempting a second for Sam Billings, out after a good throw from the deep by Chris Wood. Dawson, the bowler, completed the relay move.

“It’s just one of those things,” said the skipper Billings. He was referencing, too, the dismissal of Daniel Bell-Drummond. He had batted tidily, if a touch slowly — his 86 came from 89 balls as Hampshire tightened the screw in the middle overs — but chopped on.

Even that was a moment of absurdity, the ball went through the stumps but clipped enough of them to dislodge both bails. The sort of dismissal you get when it isn’t your day.

And so it went. This was Kent’s first Lord’s final for a decade; they’ve not won a trophy here since 1978. In a rich vein of form, with seven wins in their last eight One-Day Cup games and consecutive Championship victories since their semi-final, you’d imagine they’ve earnt some luck — but it was not to come today.

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