Vitality Blast: Kent Spitfires beat Birmingham Bears to ensure Finals Day is an all-South Group affair

Sam Billings and Daniel Bell-Drummond fired fifties before Kent Spitfires’ spinners shredded Birmingham Bears’ top order to ensure Vitality Blast Finals Day will be an all-South Group affair for the first time.

Kent skipper Billings hit 56 from 37 balls, making Bears wicketkeeper Michael Burgess play for fluffing a stumping chance on 22, while Bell-Drummond struck 53 off 37 in Kent’s 162-7, in which Tim Bresnan took 4-26.

Birmingham collapsed in the run chase with five of their top six falling to spin and although Jake Lintott (41 off 20) kept the Bears just about afloat with some late pyrotechnics, the visitors were all out for 141 in precisely 20 overs, with Spitfires seamer Matt Milnes bagging 4-24.

Kent secured a 21-run victory and a South Group clean sweep in the quarter-finals, with Sussex Sharks, Hampshire Hawks and Somerset seeing off North Group sides Yorkshire Vikings, Notts Outlaws and Lancashire Lightning respectively earlier in the week.

Kent will face Sussex in the semi-finals at Edgbaston on Saturday, September 18 while Hampshire will battle Somerset, with the winners then meeting in the final later that evening,

Mark Butcher and Rob Key assess the sides to have reached Vitality Blast Finals Day – Sussex, Hampshire, Somerset and Kent

Billings, Bell-Drummond click for Kent

Opener Bell-Drummond struck three sixes – including two in a row off spinner Danny Briggs – and a four before he was run out after some brilliant quick-thinking from Bears spinner Lintott.

Billings had smashed Lintott back onto the stumps at the bowler’s end and with Bell-Drummond backing up and out of his crease, the bowler had the presence of mind to yank the stumps out of the ground before Bell-Drummond could get back.

Billings muscled nine boundaries in total – eight fours and a six – with five of those coming after Burgess’ missed stumping off the bowling off Lintott.

Billings bashed the returning Chris Woakes for two fours and six in the 19th over before he was out to Bresnan in the 20th as the Kent skipper helped his side plunder 60 runs from their final six overs.

Woakes, playing his first first-team game since July 4 having been sidelined with a bruised heel, struck with his fourth ball, dismissing Zak Crawley (4) in the second over.

Woakes should have had Joe Denly for a duck two balls later only for Bresnan to spill the chance at slip, although Bresnan atoned for his error, removing Denly (11) in the sixth over before accounting for Alex Blake (8) in the 17th and Billings and Jordan Cox (9) from successive balls in the last.

Craig Miles (1-31) was the other Bears bowler strike – and it came in some fashion as he sprinted towards square leg to take a diving catch off his own bowling after Jack Leaning (7) skied a short ball.

Bears fold before Lintott fires

No Birmingham spinner managed a wicket but it was slow bowling that proved the Bears’ undoing up top.

Adam Hose (8) was stumped by Billings off Denly in the third over, before Leaning and Qais Ahmad picked up two wickets each as the Bears slumped to 55-6 inside 11 overs.

Qais bowled Rob Yates (19) on the cut and had Burgess caught at deep midwicket off a rank full toss, while Leaning bowled Bears skipper Will Rhodes (3) with another full toss and pinned Sam Hain (5) lbw.

Seamer Milnes chipped in, too, catching Chris Benjamin (11) off his own bowling during Birmingham’s early-innings woes and then having Woakes (14) caught in the deep in the 14th over and Bresnan (24) and Danny Briggs (0) out in similar fashion in the final over.

Bears were never realistically in the chase after their horror start but Lintott did have some fun, nailing three sixes and as many fours before he was cleaned up by New Zealander Adam Milne in the penultimate over.

Birmingham subsequently needed 25 from the final six deliveries with two wickets in hand but they didn’t get the runs and Milnes got the wickets to complete a dominant week for the South Group.

Jordan Cox took a superb boundary catch during Kent’s win over Birmingham in the Vitality Blast quarter-final at Canterbury

What they said

Kent captain, SAM BILLINGS: “It means everything. It’s always been our hurdle to get over – I think this is our fourth quarter-final (in seven years). Finals Day is one of the best days in the calendar and we know that as a side we’re very hard to beat.”

Birmingham skipper, WILL RHODES: “When you come to a place like Kent, you need to be on your A-game and make sure they have a day off. Unfortunately they didn’t, they outplayed us and fully deserved the win. We felt very confident – 160 on that wicket with a bit of dew was chaseable – but we lost too many wickets in those first 10 overs.”

What’s next?

Finals Day! Hampshire will be looking for a third title having won the competition in 2010 and 2012, while 2005 winners Somerset, 2007 champions Kent and 2009 victors Sussex will be looking for a second success in the competition. Bring. It. On!


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