Spitfires crowned T20 champions
Spitfires crowned T20 champions

Kent Spitfires ended their 14-year wait for a piece of silverware as they beat Somerset by 25 runs to win the Vitality Blast 2021.

Homegrown 20-year-old Jordan Cox smashed 58 in 28 balls to fire the Spitfires over par with 167 for seven.

Cox’s outstanding fielding and spin twins Joe Denly and Qais Ahmed’s shared five for 50 stopped Somerset short and handed Kent their first Blast trophy since 2007.

The Spitfires looked in control throughout the Powerplay, having been stuck in, before Daniel Bell-Drummond and Joe Denly both fell to Roelof van der Merwe in consecutive deliveries.

Bell-Drummond’s pull to midwicket was a regulation catch but Tom Abell’s sprint back off the ring 20 yards towards the boundary before pulling out a full stretch over the shoulder dive was mind-blowing.

A slowing Edgbaston pitch made going tough for the batters as a large total looking almost out the question when Jack Leaning clubbed a slower ball to square leg to leave the Spitfires 111 for five with four overs to spare.

But Cox, who had fallen first ball in the semi-final, flared up in sensational style.

Having been 20 off his first 17 balls, before cutting Craig Overton to the boundary, he reached his half-century in 26 balls following a swivelled and then flicked sixes.

He rounded off the innings with pyrotechnics going six-four-four off Josh Davey to lift 56 in the last four overs, and Kent to just one fewer than their 168 vs Sussex earlier in the day.

The chase couldn’t have started much worse for Somerset as Tom Banton was stumped second ball and Lewis Goldsworthy skied to point – leaving them three for two.

Tom Abell and Will Smeed rebuilt with a risk-free 58-run stand and although the former was snared at backward point.

The latter continued but earned a life in bizarre circumstances; Cox completed a catch on the boundary but slide tackled by Bell-Drummond, who had slid into the boundary cushion. Third umpire Neil Bainton adjudged it not out and a six, although three balls later Cox caught Sneed for 43 without controversy.

Cox was back at it with an outrageous scurry around the raucous Eric Hollies Stand boundary, leap and palm off to Matt Milnes to affect the wicket of Lewis Gregory before van der Merwe pinged to cover – Somerset losing five wickets for 34 in the middle overs.

Somerset, for the 24th time in all competitions and fourth time in the Blast, were confirmed as runners-up when they failed to knock off an impossible 48 in the last over.

Sam Billngs believes the perfect blend of youth and experience was crucial as he led Kent Spitfires to their first silverware since 2007 with victory in the 2021 Vitality Blast Final.

Billings said: “Experience on big occasions like this is priceless. Darren’s (Stevens) been here before. He’s been at the end of victory here before.” 

“But on the flip side of that, the exuberance of youth, taking everything in their stride. Jordan’s (Cox) encapsulated that better than anyone and he’s been our best player this year in the Blast.”

“It’s a perfect blend and the consistent thing regardless of age, is the constant work ethic of everyone, the want to get better and also the belief that we can win things.”

The Spitfires were arguably the best side throughout the competition and certainly well-deserved winners on the day. 

Billings also put that down to the strength of belief and unity within the squad: “It was a complete team effort. We had a whole squad wiped out for a couple of games and for guys to come in and the work behind the scenes from all the coaches and Paul Downton has been phenomenal.“

“That’s been the trend over the last few years and the reason for guys stepping up and opportunities for young players like the man next to me (Jordan Cox).”

“Everyone’s chipped in with a match-winning performance every now and then and that’s the makings of a really good team and a squad. So, definitely well deserved winners in the end!”

Cox was the star of the final smashing 58 off 28 followed by an extraordinary display in the field, after a duck in the semi-final. Talking about his mindset going into his innings, Cox said:

“If i’m honest with you, I was more bothered about getting off a pair. As most players do, I took my time to get in and that’s what i did and managed to end up picking the bowler that I wanted to go after and it came off tonight. Lucky it was finals day!”

Cox’ stunning athleticism to palm the ball back to Matt Milnes to remove Lewis Gregory, followed by his Ronaldo-esque celebration was the standout moment of the contest.

“I’ve been doing that all week and it just felt the right thing to do then! You never know. Cristiano Ronaldo might see that one day and maybe thats the dream…”

Picture supplied by Kent Cricket