Kent 168 for 8 (Bell-Drummond 82, Stevens 47*; Mills 3-33) lead Sussex 147 (Garton 41; Klaassen 4-17, Milnes 3-22) by 21 runs
It comes to something when one of the players of the match in a T20 Blast semi-final is less than five years away from being eligible for Covid booster jab but Darren Stevens won't give a stuff about that. Far more pressing on his immediate agenda is the prospect of picking up a third winners' medal in the T20 Blast. The opportunity to achieve that honour is partly down to his own efforts in making 47 and then taking the important wicket of David Wiese as Kent gained a thoroughly deserved victory over Sussex by 21 runs in the second semi-final at Edgbaston.
Yet this was a team triumph, too, Fred Klaassen took four wickets and Matt Milnes three as Luke Wright's team never truly came to terms with their task. All the same, Kent's side featured their three highest run-scorers in T20 cricket along with their second-highest wicket-taker. And it is, of course, Stevens who features in both lists; the 45-year-old was winning the 2004 Blast with Leicestershire just a fortnight after Archie Lenham, one of his opponents and the last man out in the semi-final, was born. Yet Lenham does not play his cricket with any more enthusiasm in his first season than Stevens evinces in his 25th summer on the circuit.
But it was Daniel Bell-Drummond, another of the players on the batting lists who won the player-of-the-match award for his innings of 82 in his side's 168 for 8. Despite the late hitting of George Garton, no one on the Sussex team could match that contribution and it is Kent who will take on Somerset in an hour or so's time.
After the early loss of Zak Crawley, bowled by Garton when playing a shot one doubts he learned at Tonbridge, the Powerplay overs were dominated by Bell-Drummond's cleanly-hit strokes until Joe Denly dishclothed Garton to Chris Jordan in the sixth over. But the fact that the left-arm quick bowler had had to bowl three of the six overs said something about the indiscipline of everyone else and the ability of the Kent opener to capitalise upon such weaknesses.
Anyway, Wright was probably relieved to introduce Lenham's leg spin in the seventh over and even more so when he conceded just six singles. At the other end Will Beer reinforced the impression that Sussex were imposing a measure of control, albeit that Bell-Drummond reached his fifty off 29 balls. But in the tenth over Sam Billings on-drove Beer for Kent's first boundary since the Powerplay and Kent reached the midpoint of their innings on 82 for 2.
Not even Ravi Bopara's waist-high full-toss and the six that came from the free hit could restore Kent's earlier prosperity. Billings was bowled for 14 by a very straight ball in the same over and Jack Leaning by a very much better one from Tymal Mills in the next. Jordan Cox was caught behind off the next ball but Stevens avoided the hat-trick by the simple expedient of playing no shot.
The veteran's contribution to Kent's cause over the next 27 balls was vastly more valuable. In company with Bell-Drummond, he added a further 38 runs until the opener was caught at deep midwicket by Ravi Bopara off Chris Jordan for his 51-ball 82. Undaunted by this - who knows, maybe reinvigorated by it - Stevens was unbeaten on 47 when the innings ended with what was plainly a defendable total.
Sussex's reply depended to a degree on their having a decent Powerplay but it was Kent who struck three vital blows in the first six overs. Phil Salt was caught behind by Billings off Klaassen for 9, Luke Wright played on to Milnes for 10 and Delray Rawlins smeared Klaassen to deep point where Jack Leaning dived forward to take a fine catch.
There was no reprieve for Sussex, no Rashid Khan to rescue them. Stevens struck with his first ball and then Ahmad bagged the vital wicket of Bopara for 22 when the batsman nicked a fine leg-spinner to Billings. Very soon Sussex's hopes rested on Garton, whose power hitting has rescued his side on a few balmy evenings in Hove. True to form, the left-hander whacked four fours and three sixes in 23-ball 41 but when he was caught at short third man by Grant Stewart off Milnes in the 16th over, his side still needed 50 off 26 balls. Jordan and Beer did their best but the job was beyond them
And suddenly it struck one that Salt and Jordan have now played their last game for the county they have represented for the best part of a decade. As far as Hove is concerned, this is good bye, not au revoir. Kent, meanwhile, prepare for the final. And one really wouldn't be astonished if Stevens enjoyed this evening as well.