Kent fans can sit easy: they may be losing Darren Stevens, but a ready-made replacement is in place in the form of Joey Evison. On a day that was about waving farewell to the departing 46-year-old all-rounder, it was the 20-year-old Evison who inspired Kent to glory over Lancashire with a stellar all-round display in a 21-run win at Trent Bridge.
Only weeks into his Kent career, Evison’s fine 97 was followed by two wickets with the ball, helping Kent to their first victory in a List A final since 1978.
Chasing an imposing 307, Lancashire went close in an innings of ebb and flow but were forced to settle upon a season of near-misses; they went into this match having lost the T20 Blast final and with their County Championship hopes all but over.
While members of the Red Rose shared glum looks at the close, Evison and his teammates revelled in the celebrations. There were six wickets shared between Grant Stewart and Nathan Gilchrist, as well as a stylish 78 from Joe Denly.
For the romantics, of course, this match was also about Stevens. The cult hero, who Kent have decided to let go at the end of the season, contributed a scratchy but ultimately vital 33 not out with the bat on an occasion that celebrated his storied career.
A groin injury picked up during his innings limited him to eight wicketless overs with the ball and prompted a premature departure from the field but that will matter little in the grand scheme of things. This most remarkable cricketer – a man powered by pints of Guinness and an incredible love for the game – will bid farewell to Kent with a medal around his neck.
“To be playing at 46 the way he is – he’s been such a massive Kent legend,” said Evison. “It’s been an honour to play with him the last couple of weeks.”
Lancashire lost the toss but were smiling not long after, with Ben Compton falling to Tom Bailey for a four-ball duck in the first over. It was then a case of the kids coming to the rescue as Ollie Robinson, 23, settled in with Evison.
There was little movement on offer for the quicks and with the sun gracing Trent Bridge life was good for the batters.
Robinson fell for a 48-ball 43 but Evison remained comfortable, taking advantage of a ground he knows well. After coming up through the ranks at Nottinghamshire he only joined Kent in July, leaving Trent Bridge initially on loan but having agreed a permanent deal that will see him through to the end of the 2025 season. Notts expressed their disappointment at his departure, having offered Evison a three-year contract themselves, but the all-rounder is hungry for more first-team action.
Here he was front and centre, with the most mature of knocks. After reaching 50 off 72 deliveries his next 47 took 39 balls, but a deserved century evaded him as a masterly Danny Lamb knuckleball rattled the stumps to end his fun.
Lancashire, powered by Keaton Jennings’s immaculate timing, had an electric start in the chase but a medium-pace squeeze from both ends – Harry Podmore at one, Stevens from the other – produced the wicket of Josh Bohannon and briefly pulled back Lancashire’s scoring rate.
The twists were endless from thereon in. Jennings’s deft touches – including a sublime little sweep off Stevens for four – helped Lancashire regain control, taking them to 125-2 in the 22nd over.
But the off-spinner Hamidullah Qadri eventually had Jennings pop a simple catch to cover for 72 before Evison struck in his third over, getting Dane Vilas – a centurion in Lancashire’s semi-final defeat of Sussex – to drag the ball on to his stumps for 11.
Qadri and Evison remained economical and after 34 overs the required run-rate moved above eight an over. Steven Croft decided it was time to change things up, smashing five boundaries in the space of two overs but he found midwicket on 72. From there, Lancashire’s hopes faded. Once again, they were forced to settle for silver.