Jordan Cox shone in the field for the Spitfires in the showpiece match at Edgbaston
Jordan Cox thumped an unbeaten 58 from 28 balls and showcased his amazing athleticism in assisting with a stunning catch as Kent were crowned Vitality Blast champions after defeating Somerset by 25 runs in an eventful final.
Cox went through the gears in an innings containing three fours and as many sixes as Kent finished with a flourish to post 167 for seven after losing the toss at Edgbaston, before taking centre stage again in Somerset’s reply.
The chase was starting to peter out but Cox made sure there was no way back, diving full length over the rope to palm back Lewis Gregory’s thumping blow back to Matt Milnes, with Somerset eventually recording 142 for nine.
A moment of contention arose earlier when Will Smeed was reprieved after Cox had taken a catch before colliding with Daniel Bell-Drummond, who was touching the boundary rope. A six was given but the decision was rendered moot as Smeed holed out again to Cox, one of three batsmen to fall to the occasional leg-spin of Joe Denly.
Kent were left celebrating a second success in this competition, 14 years after their first – their last major silverware – following a historic Finals Day, where all four semi-finalists were from the South Group.
Kent had finished top of that pile but lost both group stage matches to Somerset, but the 2005 winners were left to reflect on a fourth final defeat in this competition despite Roelof van der Merwe earlier taking three for 19.
Bell-Drummond had belted 81 in Kent’s 21-run semi-final win over Sussex and looked in the mood again after lifting Craig Overton back over his head for six. Zak Crawley was strong on the leg-side as he and Bell-Drummond laid the foundations with a 44-run stand before Somerset turned to Van der Merwe in the last over of the powerplay.
He made inroads with his second and third balls, Bell-Drummond slog sweeping hard to midwicket before Denly spliced high, leading to Tom Abell sprinting to take a superb diving catch over his shoulder at deep extra-cover.
Sam Billings then poked an innocuous delivery to extra-cover to give a third wicket to Van der Merwe, who alongside fellow slow left armer Lewis Goldsworthy stifled the scoring, conceding just three boundaries between them.
Crawley holed out to deep midwicket for 41 off 33 while Jack Leaning had gone through 29 balls in his 27 before getting a top-edge to Josh Davey’s slower delivery as Kent lurched to 111 for five at the end of the 16th over.
Cox had also found it tough – taking 17 balls to get to 20 – but he cast off the shackles as the innings approached its climax, bludgeoning 38 from his last 11 deliveries.
Cox clubbed two mighty leg-side sixes off Marchant de Lange, either side of 45-year-old Darren Stevens being run out, and then brought up his 26-ball half-century by rocking on to the back foot and flashing Davey over deep square-leg. Two fours came off the last two balls as Kent took 49 from the last three overs.
Somerset made a false start with their chase, with Tom Banton stumped second ball off Denly and Goldsworthy departing in the next over. But Kent’s decision to gamble on a second Denly over seemed to backfire, Abell smearing successive fours before Smeed punished a long hop with a meaty heave over deep midwicket.
Smeed cut and flicked Fred Klaassen for successive fours to stabilise Somerset on 47 without further loss at the end of the powerplay, but a fruitful 58-run stand was then ended when Abell sliced Qais Ahmad to backward point.
Controversy arose just after the halfway point as Smeed greeted Denly’s return with a slog sweep that was pouched by Cox in the deep. However, it was given not out and a six was awarded after a collision with Bell-Drummond, who was touching the rope and Cox immediately after the catch was taken.
Confusion reigned for a few minutes before a decision was made by the officials upstairs, but any sense of the decision overshadowing the contest seemed to vanish when Smeed thumped Denly’s full toss to Cox again for 43 in the same over. This time there were no let-offs.
Tom Lammonby was adjudged lbw off Denly although replays indicated the ball was missing leg stump before Cox took the spotlight again – leaping over the rope and in one motion palming the ball back to Milnes to complete a catch to the astonishment of the 23,500 crowd.
The unfortunate batsman was Gregory, the Somerset captain trudging off barely able to believe what he had seen. Somerset’s lower order had performed a rescue act earlier on in the two-wicket win over Hampshire but there was to be no repeat as they fell well short.