McLaren drives Kent to trophy
Ryan McLaren returned to his former workplace to inspire Kent to victory over Gloucestershire to lift the Twenty20 Cup.
The South Africa-born all-rounder became the first player in the brief history of Twenty20 cricket to claim a hat-trick on finals day after marking his return to Edgbaston, where he worked as a member of the groundstaff only two years ago, by inspiring Kent’s four wickets victory with three balls to spare.
McLaren’s hat-trick, dismissing Gloucestershire dangerman Hamish Marshall, Steve Adshead and Ian Fisher with successive balls, restricted Gloucestershire to a modest 146 for eight after they had looked capable of setting a far stiffer target.
Despite Gloucestershire’s best efforts to strangle Kent’s reply, which was led by 45 off 35 balls from Matt Walker, they closed out the win in the final over and end a long barren run without success.
Gloucestershire’s challenge was undermined from the start by losing four wickets inside the first nine overs of their innings including opener Craig Spearman, who had inspired their shock semi-final triumph over Lancashire.
Spearman and Kadeer Ali fell in Yasir Arafat’s first two overs of the innings and despite New Zealand born Marshall holding the innings together with a determined 65 off 49 balls, their impetus was lost by McLaren’s burst.
He made the crucial breakthrough to remove Marshall with just three overs remaining, bowled off an inside edge trying to guide to third man, and followed that by knocking by Adshead’s off-stump.
McLaren became only the fifth in Twenty20 history and the first on finals day to claim a hat-trick by removing Fisher lbw with his next delivery and although Mark Hardinges hammered a quickfire 39 off 35 balls, Gloucestershire’s total never looked competitive.
Kent got off to a flying start just as they had in their semi-final triumph over Sussex with captain Rob Key and Joe Denly racing to 32 in four overs before their partnership was broken in controversial circumstances.
Key clipped Carl Greenidge to mid-wicket and Marshall claimed the catch diving forward only for Key to stop short of the boundary rope once he had seen the questionable replay and when it became clear the umpires were not going to reverse their decision, threw his bat over the boundary.
While their captain fumed at the injustice, Denly add a further 46 in six overs with Walker but fell to another Marshall catch, this time a lot more clear cut, in a similar position.
Walker’s quickfire innings, which included seven boundaries, effectively settled the issue and although Gloucestershire captain Jon Lewis claimed two late wickets it was not enough to halt Kent’s push for victory.