Key eases Kent to final in thriller
Kent 141 for 5 (Key 68*) beat Sussex 140 (Goodwin 38) by five wickets
If the opening semi was a forthright one-sided affair, this one was a steamily unpredictable battle of heart and soul, with a steely Kent finally emerging triumphant over Sussex in the last over. Kent will now meet Gloucestershire in what promises to be a tight battle, after the fielding of both finalists had a massive part to play in their success.
A polished Kent stifled Sussex's early charge to dismiss them for 140 but despite another dominant opening stand of 65 between Joe Denly and Rob Key, some smart Sussex bowling threatened to upset the cart. Key's huge hits, though, were the other decider as he posted an unbeaten 68 to lead from the front and take them to the final. He picked off three boundaries in the penultimate over from James Kirtley then Rana Naved-ul-Hasan's two no-balls in the last sealed the result.
Denly continued to prove his class, with some clean cover-driving the highlight. He eventually holed out sweeping Saqlain Mushtaq at midwicket for 31, and was quickly followed by Martin van Jaarsveld for 2, sweeping Mushtaq Ahmed onto his stumps (69 for 2). Matthew Walker's 18 then proved very useful as Kent continued their final push.
"It's the mark of a good side that you can struggle and come back strong again later on," said Sussex captain Chris Adams beforehand. This attitude saw them to their first finals day, but this time, as they slipped from 59 for 0 to 140 all out, it was not enough - despite never giving up. That total was way short of what they could have expected, losing their last nine wickets for 59 runs off 58 balls.
It was all so different first up. A confident decision to bat looked to be paying off when Murray Goodwin and Chris Nash were going great guns early on. But when Nash miscued a pull high to mid-on for 37, his highest Twenty20 score, his dismissal punctured the momentum.
Once Goodwin lost his new partner, Luke Wright, early the pressure was very much on, and he fell one run later. Wright - much like Andrew Flintoff earlier - came in amid much hype, didn't get going, had a let-off early (in case on 2, backing up) and then fell for 3, Darren Stevens the bowler. Stevens conceded 13 runs from his four overs.
Goodwin was next, the first of three tight run-outs, with Chris Adams and Robin Martin-Jenkins the other victims. Matt Prior was another to feel the heat - his desperate sweep to deep midwicket off James Tredwell another effort to boost his flagging side. Tredwell picked up a second when Michael Yardy was stumped, then Malinga cleaned up, with three wickets.
A Kent/Gloucestershire final was an unlikely one on paper, not least because Lancashire and Sussex have four each of the nine England Twenty20 squad members today. However, that squad was even criticised by one of its members - Jon Lewis saying "I think they should pick the best players" - and the two finalists showed the class of their own.
Kent won the mascot race - the Spitfire bombing past a sorry Lanky the Giraffe at the last - and, with a little batting firepower, they will compete for the real prize.
Jenny Thompson is assistant editor of Cricinfo