Middlesex crowned champions in thriller
Middlesex 187 for 6 (Shah 75, Henderson 43) beat Kent 184 for 5 (Key 52, Kemp 49) by three runs
Kemp and Azhar Mahmood were left with 16 needed off the last over. Kemp was dropped at long-off on 24 by Ed Joyce and the Middlesex captain feared the worst when nerves seemed to get the better of his team-mates. A wild throw from Dawid Malan allowed four runs off the third ball off the last over and the equation was six off three. Kent favourites. Kemp clubbed two off the next ball, but missed the penultimate delivery from Henderson - the most successful bowler in Twenty20 history. The final delivery was a dead-eye yorker. Even in the most modern form of the game, that is a match-winner. Henderson's four overs cost 58, but he was still the hero when it mattered.
Middlesex's 187 was the highest total in a final, but if any team could chase it down it was Kent. They just about managed to keep in touch, maintaining an asking rate of around 11 an over until the final two overs. Tim Murtagh conceded five from his last over, the 18th, but still Kent wouldn't let go of their trophy. Darren Stevens hit Dirk Nannes for a straight six, but picked out midwicket with his next shot. Mahmood missed his first two deliveries, but his third went for four. It really was that close.
Robert Key and Joe Denly showed impressive calmness as they set about the task and didn't try to blaze from ball one. Key was as focused as he has ever appeared and launched the innings with authentic, crisp boundaries. All of a sudden Kent were scoring at 10 an over. Key showed deftness with the paddle-sweep that has become a vital part of his one-day game and Henderson came in for some severe treatment with his first two overs costing 32.
Key's fifty came off 28 balls, but Middlesex's trump cards then came into action. Murali Kartik had Key caught behind trying to cut - and the tension was easy to see as the odd word was exchanged - then in the next over Denly picked out deep midwicket off the ageless Shaun Udal, who conceded just 21 off his four overs. It's become a cliché, but Twenty20 can change in the blink of an eye.
From having a modicum of control, Kent were really feeling the pressure. Yasir Arafat was run out off a no-ball in a mix-up with Kemp and a direct hit from Joyce at midwicket. Kemp put the free hit miles into over the boundary and followed next ball with a mighty blow over midwicket. With him at the crease, Kent always had a chance, but it proved one hit too far.
At the half-way mark the consensus was that Middlesex's total was above par on a surface that had taken turn during the day. Man of the Match Owais Shah led the way with 75 off 35 balls, an innings that showcased all his eccentricity, which makes him such a dangerous one-day batsman. He picked the bowlers to attack, launching into Stevens' medium-pace and James Tredwell's offspin, which he dispatched for three consecutive sixes between deep square-leg and deep midwicket.
Middlesex didn't race out of the blocks, but using Henderson at No. 3 again paid off - if in slightly less dramatic style than in the semi-final. He was dropped at midwicket, on 6, by Mahmood and clubbed some meaty blows before driving Ryan McLaren hard to Key at short extra-cover. Henderson thought he'd hit the ball into the ground, but the third umpire correctly ruled it was a clean catch. However, Henderson's match was far from over and he would turn into a last-ditch hero. Middlesex can pack their sunscreen and Speedos, they are off to Antigua in October.
Andrew McGlashan is a staff writer at Cricinfo