Spitfires soar to Twenty20 glory
The Kent Spitfires held their nerve despite unbelievable tension at Edgbaston to win the Twenty20 Cup final with a five wicket triumph against the Gloucestershire Gladiators.
They crossed the line for their first trophy in six years when Darren Stevens hit the third last ball of the game, a no ball from Carl Greenidge, through extra cover for four.
Key and McLaren pose with the Cup
Stevens finished unbeaten with 21, one of several heroes in this Spitfires' side, but none more so than Ryan McLaren who light up the event with the first hat-trick on finals day.
Set to better Gloucestershire's 146 for eight at an asking rate of 7.35 an over, Kent again got off to a decent start through Rob Key and Joe Denly with a stand of 32, but their fun came to an en after four overs when Key went controversially for 18.
Turning a delivery from Carl Greenidge to leg, Key got the ball high off the bat and spooned it toward mid-wicket where Hamish Marshall flung himself forward to claim a diving catch.
Key, clearly unhappy at having to go, stalled on the outfield to look at the replay screen and then flung his bat toward the dugout before storming off into the dressing rooms.
Despite slow motion replays, it was nigh on impossible to tell if Marshall had
taken the catch cleanly, but regardless of the rights and wrongs, the decision
appeared to spur the Spitfires on.
Soon afterwards Key said: "It's disappointing not to have been referred to the third umpire, but best I don't say too much because I might lose the £500 I just won for being man-of-the-match in the first game."
While Key calmed down, so Denly joined forces with left-hander Matthew Walker to add 46 with Walker punishing anything short of a length with powerful cuts and pulls.
Denly had reached 28 when, despite middling a pull shot off Mark Hardinges, Marshall took off to his right at mid-wicket to pull off a stunning catch. Like Key, Denly walked off in disbelief but this time at the quality of the catch.
Martin van Jaarsveld had starred in the field, but his miserable day with the
bat continued when, on nine, he walked across his stumps aiming to flick leg-side
only to lose his leg stump to Hardinges, who finished with two for 24.
Rob Key stands his ground after beig given out
Kent needed 38 off 30 balls but, with his score of 45 from 35 balls, Walker attempted to pull his eighth four off Jonathan Lewis but only picked out Ian Fisher in the deep at mid-wicket.
With 24-year-old hat-trick hero McLaren at the crease with Darren Stevens, Spitfires
now required 34 from 24 balls, an equation that reached almost 10 an over off
the last three overs when McLaren heaved at Lewis to be bowled middle stump and
give Lewis good figures of two for 28.
Geraint Jones added four when, after slipping on the dewy surface, he was run out by Ben Edmonson's direct hit leaving the side to score 13 off the last over from Greenidge.
Thanks to Stevens, and a rifled cover drive for four, Kent edged home with three balls to spare.
Unlike the first semi-final, when Gloucestershire skipper Craig Spearman top-scored
with 86 in defeating Lancashire, the Kiwi batsman was first to go when, from the
10th ball of the innings, he stretched to cut a ball from Yasir Arafat only to
edge the ball to van Jaarsveld at first slip.
In his next over, Arafat sent back former Worcestershire batsman Kadeer Ali for six, mistiming a lofted drive he skied to mid-on where James Tredwell ran in to snaffle the catch.
Simon Cook replaced Lasith Malinga at the City End and struck with his fifth ball
of the final by trapping former Gladiators skipper Chris Taylor for a single after
the little right-hander played back and across the line to a full length off-cutter.
Ryan McLaren celebrates his hat trick ball with team mates
New Zealand Test right-hander Marshall already realised he would have to anchor
the innings and set about doing so in reaching an excellent half-century from
38 balls and with five fours.
He lost his fourth wicket partner Alex Gidman (5) in the ninth over, however, when in chancing a single to van Jaarsveld at mid-on he lost the race to gain his ground when the South African broke the stumps with a direct, under-arm hit that made it 62 for four.
Marshall and experienced all-rounder Hardinges added 49 in six overs until McLaren's third over from the City End changed the course of the final with the first ever finals' day hat-trick.
The South African, who starred for Birmingham League Cricket for Knowle and Dorridge
in 2005, also played a couple of games for the Warwickshire ground staff that
season and it was he who made the most of his local knowledge.
With the score on the unlucky Nelson's 111, Marshall chopped on to middle and leg when making room to cut to go for 65 from 49 balls, next ball right-hander Steve Adshead lose his off stump to a McLaren in-swinger then left-hander Ian Fisher went back and played across the line to an in-swinger to go leg before and send McLaren into a dance of joy.
In the final over Malinga snared Jonathan Lewis (17) leg before, but then disappeared for a straight six as Hardinges moved to an unbeaten 39 from 35 balls.
A heroic effort for the Gladiators but McLaren and the Spitfires were not to be denied their success on finals day.