Kent 257 for 1 (Kuhn 114*, Bell-Drummond 79) beat Nottinghamshire 255 for 8 (Mullaney 90, Fletcher 53*, Podmore 4 for 57) by nine wickets
In a consideration of the most influential overseas recruits min county cricket this summer, there are few reasons to look further than Kent. The area around the channel ports might be in danger of turning into a lorry park as Brexit talks drag on, but down at Canterbury the imports of Matt Henry and Heino Kuhn have been a remarkable success story.
Henry, whose 43 wickets at 11.05 have left him streets ahead in the Professional Cricketers’ Association MVP table for the Championship, has gained most attention, but Kuhn has also had a major impact on Kent’s progress to the semi-finals of the Royal London Cup.
Kuhn’s third 50-over hundred of the season possessed such authority that the holders, Nottinghamshire, were dispensed with by nine wickets with more than 14 overs to spare. Nottinghamshire’s 255 for 8 represented a respectable recovery from 34 for 4, but Kuhn swallowed it wholesale with an unbeaten 124 from 114 balls as Kent secured a semi-final meeting against Worcestershire on Sunday.
Kuhn made little impression when he opened for South Africa in all four Tests on their tour of England last year, averaging only 14.12 with a top score of 34. A chance that perhaps he imagined would never come ended in a matter of weeks and in March, at 34, he accepted a Kolpak deal with Kent. If he continues batting in this manner, it will serve him for a good few years yet.
Notts had Jake Ball and Harry Gurney back in their seam attack, but Kuhn, aggressive from the outset, made light work of both on a pitch that had settled into a fine batting surface. Gurney’s first two overs cost 27 and Kuhn had 25 of them. No Nottinghamshire bowlers managed to contain him and, with Daniel Bell-Drummond making an inconspicuous contribution alongside him, Kent’s opening stand stretched to 194 in 28.3 overs before Matt Carter had Bell-Drummond stumped.
The match hurried to a conclusion with Joe Denly, who has stood in for Sam Billings as Kent captain for much of the season, lofting Carter’s offspin majestically for three straightish sixes in a showman’s half-century comprising five sixes in all and made in only 27 balls.
Billings, released like Ball from England’s ODI squad, never got to the crease, and will have to turn his attentions to Worcester as he attempts to make his mark in a season that has brought him only 10 runs in four Royal London innings and no appearance yet in the Championship. This effervescent cricketer has many fine qualities and, as he marks his 27th birthday on Friday, the gift he most deserves as he enters the peak years of his career is to feel the sun on his back and the ball on his bat.
Nottinghamshire had not met Kent in a knockout tie since the Benson and Hedges Cup semi-final back in 1989 – a year in which they went on to win the competition – but such good omens were forgotten on a windy morning as Storm Hector, the strongest June storm for 30 years, was joined by Storm Harry, in the shape of Harry Podmore, who might not have got a game had not Mitch Claydon tweaked a groin in training the evening before, but who removed four of the top six in returning 4 for 57.
A poke from Tom Moores, a toe-ended drive from Chris Nash and a pull down the throat of deep square leg by Riki Wessels, who had been markedly restrained for the first 10 overs, gave Podmore unexpected riches. Henry’s sole wicket was an important contribution as fellow Kiwi Ross Taylor was lbw for nought to a full-length ball.
Steven Mullaney orchestrated the recovery, his 90 from 108 balls calmly made and replete with his favourite forays over the off side. England Lions are about to gain a shrewd, if understated, captain for the triangular series against India A and West Indies A. He was Podmore’s final victim, an attempted heave down the ground arcing to short third man.
Those who assumed that Notts were spent upon his departure had not reckoned with the bowling bulwark, Luke Fletcher. The 28 balls after Mullaney’s demise brought 57 and Fletcher smote an unbeaten 54 from 34 balls, his highest score in List A cricket, to the sort of cheers that identified him as one of the most popular players in the game.
There was muscle, a little tomfoolery and a moment to put your heart in your mouth when he ducked into a short ball from Matt Henry, only to raise his bat in front of his helmet in defensive defiance. Notts fans chuckled during the interval over how Fletcher had hauled them back into the game; Kuhn soon proved he had done nothing of the sort.