Delray Rawlins and Sussex go down in Vitality Blast semi-finals
Sussex’s season of promise in the Vitality Blast ended with a whimper this afternoon when they were soundly beaten by 21 runs by Kent Spitfires in the second semi-final on Finals Day at Edgbaston.
Daniel Bell-Drummond struck an imperious 82 from 51 balls after Kent won the toss and batted first, and Sussex were rarely in the fixture from there.
Ravi Bopara and Tymal Mills spirited a mid-innings collapse in which Kent fell from 93 for two to 94 for five in the space of five balls, but 45-year-old Darren Stevens produced an emphatic cameo to help the Spitfires to a more than competitive total of 168 for eight in which only three reached double figures.
Stevens, in at No 7, hit seven fours in his 47 not out from 28 balls, his impact not to be seen for the last time.
Sussex, who were without Indian Premier League-bound star bowler Rashid Khan, would have felt they had acquitted themselves manfully in the field and could chase down a total that captain Luke Wright said was “just above par”.
However, they did not get the best start in the powerplay, losing three wickets for 40 runs — including that of Bermuda’s Delray Rawlins.
Phil Salt was the first to go, caught behind for nine when slashing at wide ball from left-arm fast-medium Fred Klaassen when the score was only 15 in the second over.
Then came the huge wicket of Wright, who was done by a slower ball from Matt Milnes as he backed away to leg to give himself room to hit through off. However, the right-hander, who had made a fidgety ten, managed only to get a toe end to the ball, unluckily deflecting it a yard or so back on to his stumps.
This brought Rawlins to the wicket and the left-hander did brilliantly on the third ball he faced to keep out a searing yorker from Klaassen that left him face-down on the Edgbaston pitch.
Any hope that the 24-year-old could pick himself up, literally, to transform the Sussex innings ended four balls later when he was caught superbly by the appropriately named Jack Leaning, who took a diving, low grab running in from the point boundary.
Rawlins’s contribution was only two from seven balls, and Kent assumed total control when the next two wickets fell inside three overs for the addition of only 18 runs.
First, Ravi Bopara, the lone remaining player of experience in the Sussex line-up, fell for 22 when spinner Qais Ahmad ripped a leg break past his forward push and captain Sam Billings took a smart catch behind the stumps.
Then David Wiese, just back in England after starring for St Lucia Kings in the Caribbean Premier League in St Kitts, was beaten by Stevens’s lack of pace and played on for three.
The Sharks were gone for all money at this point, 57 for five with only the bowlers to come. But George Garton, who claimed two for 24 in the first innings, showed his burgeoning prowess as an all-rounder — and why he has been given a late call by Royal Challengers Bangalore as a replacement player in the rescheduled IPL.
The left-hander smashed three sixes and four fours in his 23-ball 41, which ended when he was well caught at short third man off Milnes at 119 for seven.
Chris Jordan (13) and Will Beers (11 not out) made nuisances of themselves in their cameos, but Kent were now home and dry, and set for a final appearances against Somerset.
In the earlier semi-final, the men from the West Country recovered sensationally to beat Hampshire by two wickets.
The Hawks were restricted to a seriously under-par 150, buoyed by Joe Weatherley’s 71 from 50 balls, but they thought they were in the box seat when they had reduced Somerset to 34 for five after 6.4 overs and then 103 for seven with 20 balls left.
But Somerset found heroes first in No 8 Ben Green, who made 35 from 18 balls with three sixes and a four, and then Nos 9 and 10 Craig Overton and Josh Davey, who each hit sixes in their identical unbeaten innings of 11 to cross the line with two balls to spare.
Kent followed up by winning the final by 25 runs, having posted an almost identical 167 for seven. This time Jordan Cox came to the fore with 58 not out and some outstanding fielding that turned the match Kent’s way.
The final was defined by pace being taken off the ball, as part-time leg spinner Joe Denly claimed three for 31 from his four overs, while Ahmad followed up his semi-final effort with two for 19 as the most economical in the match.
Slow left-armer Roelof van der Merwe had earlier claimed three for 19 to lead the Somerset bowling.