Spitfires power into One Day Final
Spitfires power into One Day Final

Heino Kuhn steered Kent Spitfires into their first Lord’s final in 10 years with his fourth century in five innings in the Royal London One-Day Cup as they overcame Worcestershire Rapids by two wickets at Blackfinch New Road.

The South African opener followed up his hundreds against Surrey, Gloucestershire and Nottinghamshire with another superb display of batting as the Spitfires chased down a 307 target with two balls to spare.

It overshadowed a brilliant century by Rapids wicket-keeper Ben Cox whose side suffered semi-final heartbreak for the second successive year.

Kuhn was given excellent support in centuries stands by keeper Adam Rouse and Alex Blake as the Spitfires recovered from 31-3.

He was finally dismissed off the third ball of the final over with four still needed for victory but Harry Podmore smote the next delivery from Pat Brown over the boundary.

Kent will now face the winners of the Hampshire-Yorkshire semi-final tomorrow at the Ageas Bowl on June 30.

Kuhn had already gone into the game as the competition’s leading scorer with 537 runs at 89.5 and he gave just one chance – on 50 – in another superb knock.

But they were made to battle all the way by a Worcestershire side lacking two of their front-line bowlers in skipper Joe Leach and Josh Tongue through injury.

Worcestershire opted to bat after Callum Ferguson, deputising as captain for Leach, won the toss.

But the Rapids ran into early trouble and their former paceman Matt Henry had George Rhodes (2) – playing his first game in the competition this season – caught at second slip.

Ferguson had scored 192 and 159 not out in his previous two One-Day Cup appearances at New Road but he made only 13 before being trapped lbw by Harry Podmore.

Then Kent’s evergreen seamer Darren Stevens, 42, made a double breakthrough.

Joe Clarke (23) lofted a catch to Henry at mid on and Daryl Mitchell (4) was bowled off his pads to leave the Rapids on 48-4 in the 14th over.

D’Oliveira and Cox had to be circumspect initially against some accurate bowling – typified by Stevens during a spell of 10-1-33-2 – and excellent ground fielding.

But they gradually started to blossom although D’Oliveira on 45 survived a legside stumping chance off Joe Denly.

He went to his half century off 65 balls – a milestone reached in three fewer deliveries by Cox.

D’Oliveira then started to cut loose and he drilled Denly back over his head for the first six of the game in the 38th over.

But in the same over D’Oliveira (78) fell victim to a superb one-handed catch by Henry diving away to his right at long on after adding 140 in 24 overs with Cox.

Ross Whiteley (4) was bowled off an inside by Podmore and at 199-6 in the 41st over the momentum looked to have swung back to the Spitfires.

But Cox and Barnard plundered 107 runs from the final 9.4 overs to take the Rapids past the 300 mark.

Barnard again showed his value as a late order batsman and he hit two sixes in an over from Henry in bringing up a 28 balls half century.

Then the whole crowd rose to Cox after he brought up his century in the final over of the innings from Haggett which cost 26 runs.

He ended unbeaten on 122 from 106 balls with two sixes and 14 fours.

The Kent reply began in similar fashion to Worcestershire’s with a clatter of early wickets.

Dillon Pennington, playing only his second List A game for the Rapids, struck in each of his first overs by bowling Daniel Bell-Drummond (1) and having skipper Joe Denly (0) caught at mid off.

It became 38-3 when D’Oliveira’s first over accounted for Sean Dickson (8) who drilled a catch to short cover.

Kuhn and Rouse rebuilt the Spitfires innings with a century stand although both had let-offs when on exactly 50.

Mitchell failed to hold onto a low return catch from Kuhn and then Rouse was well short of his ground attempting a second run when D’Oliveira failed to gather cleanly a low throw from Barnard.

The pendulum looked to have swung back the Rapids way with two wickets in quick succession.

Rouse, having made 70 off 88 balls with six fours, hit Mitchell straight to Rhodes at mid off and then Stevens (10) nicked a Pat Brown delivery and Cox pulled off a fine catch away to his right.

Kuhn found another able partner in Alex Blake and the Spitfires entered the last 10 overs needing 101 for victory.

The 34-year-old went to three figures from 99 balls with a six and seven fours.

Blake smote Barnard for two sixes in an over to bring up a 40-ball half century.

But Barnard ended his knock on 61 when Blake, attempting another big hit, was caught by D’Oliveira at long off.

D’Oliveira then held onto Henry (8) at third man off Barnard to leave the Spitfires needing 16 off the last two overs.

Eleven were needed from the final over by Brown and a straight six by Kuhn off the second ball tipped the scales in his side’s favour.

He had made 127 off 118 balls with two sixes and eight fours when he finally fell to the next delivery from Brown at mid wicket.

But then Podmore hit Brown over cover to break the hearts of the Rapids supporters.

Kent century-maker Heino Kuhn said: “To get a century in a semi-final makes it one of the better ones. I’m very happy to have contributed to the team to get us through the semis and to Lord’s.

“We lost a couple of early wickets and that made it a bit tough for me to get going.  But Rousey came in for Sam Billings and played a great knock.

“A lot of credit must go to him and then Blakey (Alex Blake) just knocked it around and played a phenomenal innings.

“I was heartbroken when I got out. It just my job to take us through and I was in tears but luckily the boys pulled it through.

“I said when I signed here that I wanted to win trophies and that is exactly what everyone in that dressing room is aiming for.

“We all feel the same and they play like they want to win trophies and this is one step closer and come Lord’s we will be up for every ball.

“I didn’t watch the end. I had my head in my hands but when I looked up the guys were all jumping up and lucky no-one fell off the balcony! It was just high fives and hugs and it was just ecstatic.”

Worcestershire Head Coach Kevin Sharp said: “It has been a rollercoaster tournament. There have been times when we’ve sometimes looked like we might be out of a game and we’ve clawed it back.

“Other times we’ve looked comfortable and it has got close. It hasn’t surprised me at all that it has gone all the way again today – two great sides playing great cricket and what a spectacle.

“Obviously gutted. The club has not been in a final for a while. It looked at times as if we would do that and at other times, we might not.

“We weren’t sure what was going to happen to the right minute there. It looked at though there might be a twist in the tail but not quite.

“But I’m very proud of the boys. They worked so hard and they are improving all the time and although, they are still relatively young in age, they are more experienced now and are actually learning how to win games.

“I know we haven’t quite won this one but, two semi-finals in two years, maybe next time it will be a final.”