A competition that despite being sidelined by the ECB has produced plenty of high quality, exciting cricket this season, has its finale at Trent Bridge on Saturday.
It brings together Lancashire and Kent, who finished second and third respectively in group B, each having seen off one of the group winners in the semi-finals. Kent were somewhat fortunate to have reached the knockout stages. Needing to win their last game they scraped home with a ball to spare against the same opposition they face in the final. They had recovered from a poor start in the competition, winning just one of their first four games, but have since gone unbeaten. In contrast, Lancashire lost only two games in the group stages and qualified comfortably in second place.
In the semi-finals, Kent were indebted to veteran Darren Stevens for getting them over the line against Hampshire, making 84 not out from 65 balls as they chased down a target of 311 with an over to spare. Lancashire were equally indebted to one of their senior statesmen in the other semi-final, Dane Vilas rescuing them from a precarious 67/5. He made 121 in a final total of 319/8 and Sussex fell 65 runs short.
Both counties have had the luxury of not featuring in the County Championship this week and have therefore had the opportunity to concentrate their training on white ball skills.
Lancashire will start as favourites having been the more consistent team in all formats this summer. They narrowly lost the Blast final to Hampshire and currently sit third in Division One of the County Championship. Their slim chances of winning the competition have however been hit by a six point deduction because of recurrent disciplinary offences and they are now 35 points behind Hampshire. This and the Blast result might be expected to spur Lancashire on this Saturday.
Kent meanwhile have had their struggles, finishing bottom of the South Group in the Blast and lie in the bottom half of Division One in the Championship, with just two wins. In their last outing they lost heavily to Essex by an innings and 260 runs, but it would be unwise to write off any team containing Darren Stevens, the 46-year-old currently topping the batting averages in this competition with 217 runs at 108.5.
Looking at the players who have been prominent for the two sides in this competition, Ollie Robinson is Kent’s top run scorer with 491 at 61.37, followed by Ben Compton with 380 at 42.22. Kent’s top wicket-taker is off-spinner, Hamidullah Qadri with 14 at 32.5. For Lancashire, Luke Wells has accumulated 339 runs at 37.66, followed by Keaton Jennings with 318 at 45.42. Jennings has also been prominent in the Championship with 1014 runs at 72.42 and at only 30 years of age is someone who should be back in the England Test selectors’ minds given the problems at the top of the order. Steven Croft has also chipped in with 313 runs at 62.6. Liam Hurt and Danny Lamb are the top wicket takers with 13 at 23.46 and 28.84 respectively. However the beauty of this competition is the requirement for a big team effort to get to this stage without the star names, as demonstrated by Glamorgan last year.
In the quarter and semi-finals both counties utilised the players that had performed during the group stages rather than bringing in those returning from the Hundred. The presumption is that the same policy will continue into the final, although there must be a temptation to make use of the likes of Laurie Evans, Matt Parkinson, Tom Hartley and Luke Wood for Lancashire and Sam Billings, Daniel Bell-Drummond, Zac Crawley, Matt Milnes, and Jack Leaning for Kent.
It would be remiss not to mention Darren Stevens in this section. The 46-year-old has been released by Kent, but given his recent batting performances in this competition, no one would be surprised if they had a change of heart. Because of injury he has only featured in five games, but has made significant contributions in each of the last three must-win encounters. His success with the ball this season has been more limited, with only four Championship wickets from five games. This reflects the more batter friendly conditions, even early on in the season. In the One-Day Cup he has gone wicketless, but the 33 overs he has bowled have gone at only 4.69 runs/over and I am sure we will see him running in at Trent Bridge, in what might be his last appearance for Kent.
When Luke Wells was released by Sussex at the end of the 2020 season, things might have looked bleak for the then 29-year-old. He had been a professional there for ten years having come up through the age-group sides, following in the footsteps of his father (Alan) and uncle (Colin). He had had a couple of lean years, but that did not deter Lancashire from signing him and both have prospered as a result. He averaged 40.85 in last year’s Championship and has scored 940 runs at 58.75 so far this year. He is Lancashire’s top run scorer in this competition with three half centuries, but has never made a List A century. The final would not be a bad place to correct that statistic.
Lancashire squad: TBC
Kent squad: TBC
Weather and Conditions
The forecast is for dry weather with a chance of seeing the sun.
Nottinghamshire only played one of their One-Day Cup games at Trent Bridge this season, where they were able to post a score of 290/7 and won by 65 runs, as Sussex were bowled out for 225 in 44 overs. Whatever the appearance of the pitch, the captain winning the toss will undoubtedly elect to bowl first given the likely conditions at 11 o’clock in mid-September.
Date: 17th September 2022
Ground: Trent Bridge
Odds (SkyBet): Lancashire 8/11; Kent 1/1