Kent find Key to victory
Ian Ward says that Kent captain Rob Key was the star of yet another fantastic Twenty20 Finals Day.
Last Updated: 06/08/07 3:59pm
The Twenty20 Cup is over for another year and I feel that the standard just gets better and better. Kent ran out winners, and deserved winners at that, in another brilliant Finals Day.
People will look at Lancashire and say that they've choked yet again in this competition and they have so many match winners that I for one felt that at some point one would grab the game by the scruff of the neck and throw them across the line.
But it has to be said that they had a poor build-up with Mal Loye going down with a back injury half an hour before the start and then they weren't sure if Dominic Cork would play after he got hit in the unspeakables in the warm-up. It was a messy build-up, especially with Mark Chilton, the captain, dropping himself and then obviously having to play again due to Loye's injury - and having to take over the captaincy duties from Stuart Law.
As Lancashire coach Mike Watkinson said, all of their best plans had been ruined, but even so it was a poor performance from them, especially with the bat. Brad Hodge looked in fine form but then managed to find the fielder and from then on it was down hill for them.
They got thumped, as Chilton said after the match, but take nothing away from Gloucestershire who were absolutely superb. Craig Spearman's innings was quite brilliant and their fielding was second to none. Hamish Marshall was just brilliant in the field and took some fantastic catches. They had so much energy and buzz about them and it reminded me very much of the way they played through the late nineties when they dominated 50-over cricket.
Lancashire just couldn't live with their desire and energy throughout the game. That was my pre-match prediction straight out the window!
In the second semi, Sussex got themselves into a bit of a pickle when they shouldn't have done really as Murray Goodwin and Chris Nash had got them off to a rollicking start and then it all just fell away as they played some silly shots.
They didn't under perform quite like Lancashire but they were certainly 20 runs light after the start they had. Chris Adams was run out and Matt Prior got bogged down, but full marks to them for getting so close to defending a small target of just 140 runs.
Saqlain Mushtaq, Mushtaq Ahmed and Michael Yardy put a tremendous squeeze on the Kent batsmen and the game was in the balance for a while but unfortunately one of the best and most exciting death bowlers in the world, Rana Naved, lost a bit of discipline and bowled a few no-balls. On such margins when you have a small target to defend if you're giving away three no-balls, and then the preceding extra hits, that's really going to hurt you. It's hard on Rana because he is a champion bowler.
Ian Botham says there are no excuses for bowling no-balls and that he can count on one hand the amount of no-balls he bowled in his career. He's the bowling expert but it was just a shame it happened for Naved at that time. Was he striving to be the match winner? Was it just pure desire that he just got a bit ahead of himself and upset his rhythm? Who knows. I wouldn't blame him but it was crucial when there were such tight margins to play with.
Kent, like Gloucestershire, were a class apart in the field. I asked Nasser [Hussain] at the start of the game what would be more important - match winners or teamwork? He said teamwork and he was absolutely right. Kent and the Gladiators just blew the others away.
Ryan McLaren was outstanding in the field, as was Matthew Walker. He's not quite as trim as he once was but he was throwing himself around and he must have saved 20 runs on his own. He also batted intelligently and I'm really pleased for him, as he's a Kent boy through and through.
I reckon that was the best Twenty20 Final yet. It was full of drama, the way that both innings ebbed and flowed. Spearman couldn't reproduce his heroics from the first semi but Marshall played very well for his 65.
Then Kent came out flying with Rob Key and Joe Denly, then they lost their captain in controversial circumstances as it appeared on the replay that the ball may have touched the ground as Marshall took the catch. Walker was going along nicely but couldn't get the strike and then holed out. The second half of Kent's innings was so unpredictable and made for compelling viewing.
Out of all the teams on show, Kent had such a relaxed approach to their play and Key's leadership was quite superb. Twenty20 is about being as relaxed as you can possibly be because it is so frenetic and if you're pumped up too much before a game you not only tire yourself out throughout the day but everything seems that extra bit frantic.
If you go in relaxed the adrenalin of the game picks you up to speed and I thought Key judged his performance and leadership with perfection. And of course McLaren's hat-trick was just fantastic.
The pitch was slow and was turning and normally what happens when you're batting under lights is that the ball zips around making it harder. But Key went down the route of thinking that the dewy conditions would help bring the ball onto the bat quicker and make the stroke-play a bit easier.
It was a slight gamble but the bottom line of his decision at the toss was that they had been successful chasing so why change it for the final? I don't think he was that fussed - he wasn't that fussed about anything throughout the day as he was so relaxed.
Key, for me, was the star of the day. The way he paced his knock in the semi-final was a lesson to all in how to time a Twenty20 innings. He flew out of the traps and then realised he had to throttle back a little bit in the middle period and deal with the Sussex slow bowlers, but he then accelerated at the end, taking some calculated gambles.
Overall his leadership of the team was outstanding, he had a smile on his face all day. Even when he threw his bat down after he was controversially caught by Marshall he apologised to our cameras and did it with a smile on his face straight away when many players wouldn't. He was the man of the day, and what a day.
Ian Ward was talking to James Root