T20 Blast: Kent beat Birmingham Bears to secure first all-South Group Finals Day

Vitality Blast quarter-final, The Spitfire Ground, St Lawrence, Canterbury
Kent 162-7 (20 overs): Billings 56, Bell-Drummond 53; Bresnan 4-26
Birmingham Bears 141 (20 overs): Lintott 41; Milnes 4-24
Kent beat Birmingham Bears by 21 runs
Match scorecard

Kent sealed a clean sweep for the South Group sides in the T20 Blast quarter-finals as they booked a place at Finals Day for the first time in 12 years.

Sam Billings led from the front with 56 as Kent beat Birmingham Bears to join Somerset, Hampshire and Sussex in the last four.

Chasing 162-7 under the Canterbury lights, the Bears buckled from 36-1 to 55-6 to lose by 21 runs on 141.

Kent, 2007 winners, face 2009 victors Sussex at Edgbaston on 18 September.

Hampshire and Somerset will meet in the other semi-final – a repeat of the 2010 final.

Billings and Daniel Bell-Drummond (53) each took 37 balls to ease Kent to a decent, although slightly sub-par, score.

But the Bears then collapsed alarmingly before some fabulous late fireworks from Jake Lintott and Tim Bresnan gave the visitors false hope.

The Bears’ defeat, in their first quarter-final in four years, turned into a repeat of their only previous T20 meeting with Kent. Back in 2008, they suffered a 42-run loss, also at the last-eight stage.

The only two survivors from that match were England pair Joe Denly and Chris Woakes, who made a surprise first appearance in almost two months after recovering from a heel injury.

Chris Woakes was playing his first game of first-team cricket since 4 July - and only his third for the Bears this season
Chris Woakes was playing his first game of first-team cricket since 4 July – and only his third for the Bears this season

Bell-Drummond and Billings on the button

After being put in by Bears captain Will Rhodes, Kent were only 46-2 after the powerplay, despite Bell-Drummond slapping successive sixes over mid-wicket off Danny Briggs.

But no sooner had Bell-Drummond shared a 50 stand with Billings and reached his own half-century, he perished to a smart piece of thinking by Lintott to run out the Kent opener.

Billings arrowed a straight drive which broke the stumps at the non-striker’s end, but Lintott had the presence of mind to grab the ball, uproot the stump and run out Bell-Drummond.

Captain Billings ought to have followed soon after but a missed stumping by Michael Burgess proved costly.

Kent lost Jack Leaning when he mistimed a pull to launch a steepling catch off Craig Miles which the bowler ran 30 yards to take.

But, although he departed in the final over, Billings still marshalled a Kent rally of 50 from 30 balls.

Bears collapse before Lintott’s late heroics

The Bears made a tidy start, but Adam Hose and Chris Benjamin holed out when starting to look dangerous before Kent’s spinners struck twice in successive overs.

Afghanistan leg-spinner Qais Ahmad bowled Rob Yates and then, just four balls later, off-spinner Jack Leaning claimed the prize wicket of Sam Hain.

Leaning then struck again when Bears skipper Will Rhodes missed a full toss before Burgess slapped another full toss, this time off Ahmad, to mid-wicket.

Woakes offered hope with a quickfire 14 before exiting to a stunning overhead catch in the deep by Alex Blake.

That brought in Lintott, fresh from last Saturday’s success in The Hundred with Southern Brave against Birmingham Phoenix.

The schoolteacher-spinner bludgeoned three sixes and three fours with a variety of inventive shots as he smashed 41 off 20 balls in a stand of 54 with Bresnan.

But, when he was bowled by Adam Milne off the last ball of the penultimate over, all hope was lost and Bresnan and Danny Briggs soon perished too as Kent ended a run of four defeats at this stage in the past 10 years.

Finals Day

Edgbaston, 18 September, 10:30 BST

Hampshire: Eighth Finals Day: Won (2010, 2012), semi-finalists (2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017)

Somerset: Seventh Finals Day: Won (2005), runners-up (2009, 2010, 2011), semi-finalists (2012, 2018)

Sussex: Fifth Finals Day: Won (2009), runners-up (2018), semi-finalists (2007, 2012)

Kent: Fourth Finals Day: Won (2007), runners-up (2008), semi-finalists (2009)

Kent captain Sam Billings:

“I’ve never been to a Finals Day. It’s one of the best days in the calendar, so this means everything. It’s always been our hurdle to get over. This is our fourth quarter-final in seven years.

“We haven’t even played our best. And Bell-Drummond’s was perhaps the most unlucky dismissal ever and, when that happened, I thought it’s down to me. I really took it upon myself at that point and got some runs on the board.

“I haven’t been around as much as I would have liked due to England stuff and getting Covid. I was injured a couple of years ago so it’s been a pretty weird couple of years.

“To be back here playing cricket with this team it means so much. I’ve been at the club since I was eight. People don’t think I care. I think they’re deluded, to be honest.”

Birmingham Bears skipper Will Rhodes:

“When you come to a place like Kent, where they’re so good at home, you need to be on your A-game and make sure they have a day off.

“Unfortunately they didn’t. They outplayed us and fully deserved to win.

“We felt very confident, 160 on that wicket with a bit of dew was chaseable, but we lost too many wickets in those first 10 overs.

“We saw how Bresnan and Lintott played at the end. They struck it pretty cleanly. If we’d had wickets in hand it would have been a different story, but that’s the game.”

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