30 Aug 2022 | Royal London Cup 2022
313 for 7
310 for 9
Kent win by 3 wickets

Darren Stevens continued his farewell tour with an outrageous 84 off 65 balls to send Kent Spitfires to the Royal London Cup final.

Veteran all-rounder Stevens is leaving Kent at the end of this season after they decided not to renew his contract. He will round off his List A career with the county with potential for silverware after striking a six off his legs and then a driven four to take his side over the line.

Ollie Robinson’s 95 and Harry Finch’s 63 had set up Kent chasing down 310 before the 46-year-old marshalled his side to a three-wicket victory.

Kent, who lost to Hampshire in the 2018 final, will face Lancashire in the Trent Bridge showpiece on September 17.

Kent openers Joey Evison and Ben Compton were both dismissed inside the first six overs of the reply, both edging to Scott Currie at second slip.

At the other end, Robinson was playing with a sublime touch, with all 12 of his fours coming on the offside to go with a beautifully flicked six.

Joe Denly put on 48 with Robinson before edging behind before Harry Finch arrived to substantially chip away at their task. A quick outfield paired with well-placed shots made scoring seem easy, with the duo’s 100 stand coming in 101 balls.

But the momentum swung back towards Hampshire as Robinson spooned to midwicket for 95 and Finch chopped on.

Enter Stevens, on the back of 41 off 24 in the quarter-final.

He bossed a 60-run stand with Grant Stewart, and when he had gone dominated a 45 partnership with Harry Podmore.

Power was the name of his game, whether it was down the ground or through point, everything other ball had the kitchen sink thrown at it. His 50 came at a run-a-ball, before an extraordinary slapped four over extra cover, off a no-ball bouncer, and a checked straight six combo silenced the Utilita Bowl.

He even had time to hug umpire David Millns after smashing back at him.

Seventy-two were needed from the last 10 overs, which Stevens expertly systematically knocked off to win with an over to spare.

Earlier, Nick Gubbins and Ben Brown had set the platform with 106 for the first wicket – Hampshire's highest opening stand of the tournament – with Gubbins clipping the second ball of the innings off his hip to the boundary to set the tone after they had been put in.

He was dropped on 33 at first slip but moved past 50 for the third time in the competition in 54 balls – brought up with a sweetly timed cut for four.

The impressive start was halted by a classic bang-bang from Hamidullah Qadri.

Brown was adjudged to have been caught at short fine leg, giving a sarcastic thumbs up and applause to the away side on his way off – with club captain James Vince also tweeting his disbelief at the decision. The next delivery Hampshire’s leading run scorer Tom Prest edged behind.

Aneurin Donald skewed the hat-trick ball away before forging stands of 40 and 42 with Gubbins and when he had been bowled on 75, Fletcha Middleton.

The Welshman didn’t show the same uber-aggressive style as his half-century against Yorkshire Vikings, instead using control and guile to find gaps in his 52 ball fifty.

Another pair of wickets – Donald lbw while attempting a one-handed reverse sweep and Middleton tamely caught at cover – dragged the Spitfires back into things. Only for Toby Albert and Felix Organ to thrash 88 runs in 57 balls – headlined by three sixes from the latter.

It was a brutal period of play which teed up 92 runs to come in the final 10 overs to take Hampshire to 310 for nine – after a flurry of late wickets.