Fans witness fitting finale to fraught competition

Fourth List A final between these sides joins the others in providing memorable images

Paul Edwards
Paul Edwards
Joe Denly and Darren Stevens celebrate with the trophy  •  Getty Images

Joe Denly and Darren Stevens celebrate with the trophy  •  Getty Images

At its heart, of course, the 2022 Royal London Cup final was a contest between Lancashire and Kent. Yet it was also a challenge to the ECB after its utterly mis-scheduled ham-fisted staging of this event last year, and also to the supporters of both teams to prove that something as 20th century as a 50-over county match could attract a decent crowd to a Test-match ground. So maybe we should say first of all that while Kent won what might become known as Joey Evison's match, the ECB recovered some kudos and the fans turned up in good numbers.
One can always tell a game is poorly attended when the TV cameras greet every dramatic moment by focusing on the same tiny group of manic supporters. This was very different. Trent Bridge was not a sell-out, nothing like it in fact, but the stands behind the bowlers' arms were full and the 9040 spectators certainly created a sense of occasion. To a degree this was plain in the absolute quietness that descended on the ground well before the players came out for the official minute's silence in memory of the late Queen. As at The Oval last week, the spectators' voluntary recognition of solemnity - of life being different - was far more impressive than the orchestrated respect. Somehow one was not quite ready for it.
As ever, though the vendors of alcohol were greedily rigged up for anything. Jim and Tonic were offering The Outlaw (£8.50 for a large snifter) comprising Mediterranean gin, Indian tonic, orange and rosemary. Rather more plebeian was Keeton Corner, in tribute to the old Nottinghamshire opener, Walter, or Parr's Bar, with a nod to George. At both places a pint of IPA could be purchased for £5.50.
There was even an EBar which prioritised efficient consumption above human contact by merely requiring customers to place a plastic glass and their credit cards in the right places in order to be presented with a pint of strong lager. Judged in that light, the injunction to "Drink responsibly" seemed a little hapless. One felt it could have been followed with "On the other hand…"
For most of the first innings, Kent's supporters had plenty to enjoy and heaps to toast. Most obviously, this was apparent in Evison's 97 but there was also Joe Denly's 78 and the general reassurance that this wasn't going to be one of those one-day finals in which the side batting first is four down for spit inside the first ten overs. Those matches were played at Lord's, of course, where inserting the opposition was always a favoured tactic on September Saturdays. Steve Birks' pitch allowed no such eccentricities; Evison and Denly made that plain.
And it was not only Lancashire supporters who didn't appreciate the fluency of Kent's batsmen. "How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless child," says King Lear when Goneril is telling him some homeless truths and Nottingham-based fans at Trent Bridge might have felt something similar as they watched their former Academy product Evison's 111-ball innings, an effort which provided the backbone of what seemed a clearly competitive 306 for 5.
Kent's batters also had help from an improbable source. For after a season in which they had prided themselves on their performance in the field, Lancashire's players had something of a shocker. There were overthrows and misfields, on top of which Wells and Keaton Jennings managed to drop three catches between them, the last of them of Darren Stevens in the final over, when a colossal skier more or less bisected them, Jennings chose, or was chosen by Wells, to take it and spilled the thing. The batters managed two and Danny Lamb looked more or less ready to self-combust. Mind you, Kent had their misdemeanours, too, never more so than when Ollie Robinson discarded his glove to chase a ball and Harry Finch picked up the mitt to take the return, thereby incurring a five-run penalty.
At that stage Lancashire's pursuit was going well. They were more or less up with the required run-rate and better placed than Kent after almost each over of their innings. Then Jennings, after disrupting opposing bowlers with his long-armed drives and praying mantis sweeps, chipped Hamidullah Qadri to Alex Blake at cover and Lancashire were 125 for 3 in the 22nd over.
That, though, was nothing like the game's crucial dismissal, nor was Jennings' 71 the vital innings. As much as anything, this fine final was decided by Kent's magnificent catching, first Alex Blake off Croft, then Evison off George Lavelle and finally Grant Stewart off Danny Lamb in front of the Kent supporters in the Fox Road stand
And at once this fourth List A final between Lancashire and Kent joined the others in its ability to provide memorable images. In 1971, of course, it was Jack Bond's catch off Asif Iqbal; in 1974 it was Alan Knott and Bob Woolmer nudging Kent home in a low-scoring game; and in 1995, Lancashire prevailed despite a conjured century from Aravinda de Silva. In 2022, in a very different, much less confident era, it was Evison's innings and a series of Kent fielders leaping and swooping to grab cricket balls before being submerged beneath a heap of sky-blue shirts and happiness.
So a day that began with "Abide with Me" would end very fittingly, with the darkness deepening and the mid-September eventide falling very fast. Kent's cricketers will notice neither Saturday's dusk nor Sunday's dawn. And quite right, too. Good luck to them.

Paul Edwards is a freelance cricket writer. He has written for the Times, ESPNcricinfo, Wisden, Southport Visiter and other publications