Kent 306 for 6 (Evison 97, Denly 78) beat Lancashire 285 (Croft 72, Jennings 71, Stewart 3-42, Gilchrist 3-65) by 21 runs
Evison, who was loaned out to Kent by Nottinghamshire for the Royal London Cup ahead of a three-year deal, followed up a composed innings of 97 with an outfield catch at a crucial period and a yorker to finish it in a nerveless penultimate over to stymie Lancashire’s pursuit of 307.
Peter Moores, Nottinghamshire’s coach, was frustrated by Evison’s departure, but the advent of The Hundred, and the current status of the 50-over tournament as a developmental competition has created conditions in which talented young players are more ambitious than ever to quicken their careers.
In the frantic closing overs, two alternative paragraphs were vying to be written – and they both involved Derbyshire being well beaten in a List A final. The relevant one turned out to be Kent’s first List A triumph since 1978, a prosaic, low-scoring affair even for those times in which Derbyshire made only 147 – four wickets for John Shepherd – and Bob Woolmer’s sedate 79 completed a six-wicket win.
T20 Finals Day has long usurped the 50-over final as county cricket’s one-day jamboree, but more than 9,000 turned out to watch the culmination of a diminished competition which at least was back in its rightful place in early September as the Championship also reaches its climax.
Thirteen players involved in The Hundred were absent. Kent omitted their septet as a deliberate show of faith to those who had taken them to the final. Lancashire had no such compunction, but lost three to England, Liam Livingstone to injury and omitted their spinners Matt Parkinson and Tom Hartley.
Jennings has led Lancashire ably over 50 overs this summer. It is nearly four years since he played the last of his 17 Tests, but 30 or not he is a capable cricketer and responsive leader and deserves to skipper England Lions if they tour Sri Lanka as expected in 2023.
At 126 for 3 in the 22nd over, and 181 more needed at 6.3 an over, the match was keenly balanced, and Lancashire lost a second batter of equable temperament in pressure situations when Dane Vilas dragged on trying to pull Evison. Fourteen overs passed without a boundary as Evison and Qadri took control.
Lancashire’s bowling attack had been short on options compared to Kent’s with sixth-bowler duties left to Croft, a redoubtable professional over many seasons, but someone who had bowled only 15 overs of offspin in the competition and whose staccato round-arm delivery suggested a prescription of beneficial stretches might be in order.
Kent had lost a wicket after four balls and the identity of the batter determined the nature of their progress. It was Ben Compton, an opener of prudence, who steered a wide delivery from Tom Bailey to backward point, leaving Ollie Robinson to fulsomely carry the fight. Robinson’s future at Kent will not be determined until the end of the season – as well as this cup final he might well be drafted into a relegation scrap – with Durham prominent among his suitors. He took a liking to Will Williams, unafraid to loft him over mid-off, but he was silenced on 43 when the wicketkeeper Lavelle held an excellent, one-handed diving catch off an inside edge. His 534 runs at 66.75 is a runs tally outdone only by Stephen Eskinazi and Cheteshwar Pujara.
Evison played with great discernment for his 97, most of his 14 fours and one six struck down the ground – a favourite area – and his one uncertain moment coming on 47 when Lancashire’s review for an lbw verdict for Liam Hurt narrowly failed.
There was to be no flamboyant finale for Stevens, whose memorable match-winning exploits, at 46, had carried Kent into the final and won him many headlines. “Stevo is God” proclaimed a Flag of St George banner in the Fox Road stand, but as much as Godlike status at Kent is not to be sniffed at, he hankers more after a player-coach deal wherever he can get one. He managed only eight overs of his spell before leaving the field with a damaged groin.
His unbeaten 32 from 31 had been a bit of a mercy because his touch largely escaped him. He was twice the beneficiary as Lancashire’s fielding fell apart in the final hour. His first cloth down the ground was fumbled by Luke Wells at long on; Jennings drop of a skier to cover was much more culpable. He was also the guilty party in the run out of Stewart, eager to regain the strike after Stewart pushed the ball straight to Croft at point.
David Hopps writes on county cricket for ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps