Kent legend Stevo signs off in style: 46-year-old Darren Stevens helped the county to their first one-day trophy since 1978 with victory over Lancashire in the Royal London Cup final at Trent Bridge
- Kent beat Lancashire by 21 runs to win the Royal London Cup final in Nottingham
- Darren Stevens, 46, was playing his last match after 18 seasons with the county
- It was the first time Kent had won a knockout trophy in the game since 1978
- Both sides were eager for victory, with Lancashire without silverware since 1998
Darren Stevens signed off after 18 seasons with Kent as the romantics demanded — with the club’s first knockout trophy since 1978, as Lancashire were beaten by 21 runs in the 50-over Royal London Cup final in Nottingham.
Stevens, now 46, was two when Kent beat Derbyshire in the old Benson & Hedges Cup at Lord’s all those years ago. Since then, eight more one-day finals had brought eight defeats, with Stevens himself involved in four.
His role in yesterday’s victory was mainly unglamorous — a chancy unbeaten 33 off 31 balls, then eight wicketless overs for 45. He even limped off with a groin strain. But you had to be a Lancashire supporter, or possess a heart of stone, not to feel thrilled for county cricket’s most golden oldie.
Darren Stevens, 46, finally got a taste of victory in a one-day final as Kent beat Lancashire
Stevens is almost certain not to play in either of Kent’s last two four-day championship fixtures, and no new contract is in the offing. He wants to play another season, and both Leicestershire, his first county, and Glamorgan have made noises.
But if this is it, a career that began in 1997 — before four members of Kent’s winning side were even born — will have ended on a high. A tournament batting average of 125, plus an economy-rate of 4.87, spoke of his enduring influence. A banner in one stand declared ‘Stevo is God’.
‘You only have to listen to the ovation,’ said their captain, Joe Denly. ‘Stevo’s been a phenomenal Kent player. He’s a hero down at Canterbury.’
Captain Joe Denly led Kent to the Royal London One-Day Cup after victory at Trent Bridge
English cricket’s main one-day trophy has diminished in importance ever since the arrival of Twenty20 in 2003, and nosedived further with the onset of the Hundred. Trent Bridge hosted a little over 9,000 spectators, which meant it was barely half full.
But make no mistake: both sides craved victory.
Lancashire, for their part, were without one-day silverware since 1998, and looked on course when Steven Croft — at 37, a relative novice — took them to 212 for four chasing 307, having built on a 62-ball 72 from opener Keaton Jennings.
Instead, Kent found inspiration in the field. Alex Blake leapt superbly at mid-wicket to catch Croft for 72 off Nathan Gilchrist, who then re-moved George Lavelle and caught Danny Lamb. Grant Stewart was also excellent in the closing stages.
Tom Bailey played for Lancashire, seeking one-day silverware for the first time since 1998
Earlier, the Kent innings centred on an assured 97 from Joey Evison, the 20-year-old signed on loan from Nottinghamshire as a Stevens-style all-rounder. Later, he took the crucial wicket of Dane Vilas and walked off, wide eyed, with the Player of the Match award.
Kent were relieved the conclusion wasn’t any tighter, after a moment of carelessness from Harry Finch gifted Lancashire five penalty runs. When wicketkeeper Ollie Robinson dispensed with a glove to collect a leg-bye, Finch moved to the stumps, put it on his left hand and gathered the return — a breach of Law 28.
In the end, the details were drowned out as Denly spoke of breaking ‘that curse’, and Stevens — enveloped by jubilant team-mates — brandished the trophy.