Denly and van Jaarsveld power Kent to Lord's
Kent secured a place in their first Lord's final since 1997 when they knocked out defending Friends Provident champions Durham, by 83 runs, in the semi-final at Chester-le-Street
Kent 301 for 4 (van Jaarsveld 122*, Denly 102) beat Durham 218 (Benkenstein 80*, Smith 56, Tredwell 3-37) by 83 runs
Kent secured a place in their first Lord's final since 1997 when they knocked out defending Friends Provident champions Durham, by 83 runs, in the semi-final at Chester-le-Street. The victory was set up by two outstanding centuries from Joe Denly and Martin van Jaarsveld as Kent racked up an imposing 301 for 4. For a period, while Dale Benkenstein and Will Smith were motoring, Durham were up with the rate but the pressure of the chase proved too much and the innings fell away rapidly.
Joe Denly was down, but certainly not out, after a blow from Steve Harmison
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Kent couldn't have played a better one-day innings as they built a series of effective partnerships, keeping a consistent scoring rate until a late surge led by van Jaarsveld. In the last Championship match against Surrey he hit twin hundreds and took a five-wicket haul, so the force was certainly with him. He took Albie Morkel to the cleaners during the closing overs, launching three huge leg-side sixes, just at a time when Durham would have had hopes of holding them to around 280.
Ideally when chasing over 300 a side needs a solid base, so being 2 for 2 in the second over wasn't in Durham's game plan. Michael Di Venuto was unlucky to be given lbw - getting a thick inside edge into his pad - but Phil Mustard's outside edge was much clearer. However, Durham realised they wouldn't get anywhere by prodding around and the top order continued to play their shots.
Paul Collingwood scored freely as he and Smith righted the innings with a positive stand of 54. Collingwood motored at a run-a-ball before playing across the line at Ryan McLaren's first delivery, but his brief burst meant the required rate hadn't spiralled out of control.
Benkenstein was quickly ticking over nicely while Smith pulled out some fine drives as the pair brought the chase down to less than six-an-over. Robbie Joseph's expensive four-over spell meant Robert Key needed to fine some extra overs, but his problems were eased by an excellent spell from James Tredwell. Darren Stevens also played his part, with 10 overs of nagging medium-pace, and broke the fourth-wicket stand of 107 when he trapped Smith lbw.
Durham still had the middle order to pull off the chase, but panic seemed to set in early. Morkel sent an ugly heave down to long off and Shaun Pollock was acrobatically caught by Justin Kemp at deep square-leg. It left Benkenstein too much to do as the lower order sank without a trace.
What Durham had really needed was a top-order hundred, of which Kent had two. Denly's innings was the type that England's ODI openers rarely manage to produce, and suggested the selectors may have erred in not naming in the 30-man Champions Trophy squad. He took advantage of the Powerplays before consolidating after the loss of Rob Key, then lifted his scoring rate again as his century came off 122 balls. After a slow start to the season, Denly has prospered in recent weeks with an impressive Twenty20 campaign and easily converted that into the longer one-day format.
He had one moment of unease when Steve Harmison struck him flush on the helmet with a rapid bouncer that Denly didn't pick up. But he was right behind the line of the next ball and didn't have any problems dispatching anything short and wide to the boundary.
Key bullied the bowlers early on, not afraid to use his feet in Brendon McCullum-style, as the opening pair added 96. Harmison made the breakthrough when he had him caught behind, pushing outside off stump and Mustard took a neat catch. It didn't stop Kent's momentum, though, as Denly took on the responsibility of controlling the innings.
van Jaarsveld took a while to settle, but a swat through midwicket off Morkel got him going. With an extraordinarily high, and static, back lift he let his bottom hand dominate, especially during the closing overs. He closed out the innings with two audacious paddle-sweeps and Morkel's seven overs cost 75.
Azhar Mahmood had a brief flurry until he missed a straight one from Harmison and Kemp also failed to ignite as Harmison added a fourth wicket in his final over, but it did little to slow Kent's charge. They are becoming one of the premier one-day sides in the country and now a Lord's final beckons.
Andrew McGlashan is a staff writer at Cricinfo