The Royal London One-Day Cup final will be an all-South affair as Kent, in their first one-day final since 2008, take on Hampshire at Lord’s.
Matt Walker’s side certainly didn’t take the easy route to make it to the showpiece on Saturday. Defeat in their first two matches meant that it was effectively a knockout tournament for them from that point on.
A five-game winning run was halted by Essex on the final day as they had to settle for third place in the South Group and therefore face a daunting play-off against defending champions Nottinghamshire. It was a task they were more than equal to, knocking the Outlaws out with a nine-wicket win.
Victory in the semi-final by two wickets against Worcestershire has taken Kent to this first white-ball final in a decade. It caps a really good first half to the season for the Canterbury club, who are also delivering strong performances in red-ball cricket.
They sit second in Division Two and are giving themselves every chance of promotion back to the top flight of the County Championship.
New Zealander Matt Henry has been especially crucial for them in the four-day game and has also shone on their way to this final, taking 16 wickets. Veteran Darren Stevens also has the same total and their ability to pick up scalps could be crucial against Hampshire’s strong batting lineup at Lord’s.
It is probably fair to suggest, without being unkind to Hampshire, that Kent will be the neutral’s choice for success in the final. They are a non-Test ground club, operating on a smaller budget than some and yet have managed to put together a formidable side which is delivering in red and white ball cricket.
Much credit therefore must go to head coach Matt Walker, who was surrounded by a raft of backroom changes at the club over the winter but has kept the club moving forward and created what he calls a ‘family’ within the dressing room.
Lifting the trophy at Lord’s would be great reward for the efforts of everyone at the club.
Player of the Tournament
Heino Kuhn’s form in the competition for Kent has been nothing short of magnificent – record-breaking in fact. He became the first man to score four centuries in five English domestic List A innings with his match-winning hundred in the semi-final victory over Worcestershire. Only one player – fellow South African Alviro Petersen – has ever scored five centuries in six, which is the record Kuhn will be chasing in the final.
Top run-scorer & wicket-taker
Heino Kuhn: 664 runs @ 94.86
Darren Stevens & Matt Henry: 16 wickets @22.62 & 30.44
Road to the Final
3rd, South Group
Play-Off Match: Beat Nottinghamshire by nine wickets
Semi-final: Beat Worcestershire by two wickets
Kent head coach Matt Walker: “For us it’s just another game at the end of what’s been a fantastic 50-over campaign, so hopefully nothing changes in terms of the players’ attitudes and minds.”
View from the stands
Kent fan Lettie Hadley: “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. 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.
Sam Billings returns to captain the side and is one of four academy graduates in the squad. Matt Henry will spearhead a seam-bowling unit in which Harry Podmore and Darren Stevens have been key contributors, while Heino Kuhn and Joe Denly are Kent’s top run-scorers in the competition.
Kent Squad: Sam Billings (c), Daniel Bell-Drummond, Heino Kuhn, Joe Denly, Sean Dickson, Alex Blake, Adam Rouse, Darren Stevens, Will Gidman, Grant Stewart, Calum Haggett, Harry Podmore, Matt Henry, Imran Qayyum, Mitch Claydon
Date: 30th June 2018
Umpires: Michael Gough, Graham Lloyd; Martin Saggers (3rd Umpire); Chris Watts (4th Umpire)
Odds (SkyBet): Kent 5/4, Hampshire 8/13