Once again, a Heino Kuhn century led the rescue of Kent as they beat Worcestershire in the first semi-final of the Royal London One-Day Cup in Worcester.
On the eve of the anniversary of the battle of Waterloo (1815), it was, in the words of the Duke of Wellington, ‘a close-run thing’.
Kent won by two wickets with two balls to spare, spearheaded by Kuhn’s 127 off 118 balls, which included eight fours and two sixes. It was his second successive ‘best score’, having smashed an unbeaten 124 against Notts last time out.
He was the rock on which Adam Rouse (70 off 76) and Alex Blake (61 off 48) built their innings after Kent, chasing 307 to win, were struggling at 3-31 after seven overs.
Kuhn was a prolific opening batsman for the Titans, which earned him a Test call-up in that disastrous tour of England in 2017. He played seven T20s for South Africa, but was never given a chance in the ODIs.
But he has shown his worth for Kent since taking a Kolpak contract in March. In this one-day series, he is far and away the best batsman, hammering 664 at an average of 94.85. He is 136 runs ahead of his nearest rival, Varun Chopra, having scored four hundreds and a fifty in 10 matches.
He is definitely not a smash-and-grab batsman, but his strike rate of just on 103 shows that he stays on top of the run rate at just over a run a ball, scoring a measured 57 fours and just nine sixes.
Kent were set a testing target of 307 on the back of Ben Cox’s 122 not out, supported by 78 from Brett D’Oliveira, grandson of the great Basil D’Oliviera, and 50 from Ed Barnard.
Worcestershire would have been confident when Kent were struggling at three down, when Kuhn was getting into his stride. He put on 114 with Rouse for the fourth wicket and 115 with Rouse for the sixth.
He was dismissed with three balls left in the innings, just after smacking a six which took Kent to within four runs of victory. A boundary from Harry Podmore provided the coup de grace.
But Kun admitted he was devastated when he was dismissed.
‘I was well broken when I got out – it was my job to take us through and to get out at that stage, I was in tears,’ he said.
‘It’s definitely one of the better centuries I’ve scored,’ he told BBC. ‘I’m happy to have contributed for the team, to get us to the semis and to Lord’s.’
Kent can now prepare of the final at Lord’s on 30 June against the winner of the second semi-final, between Hampshire and Yorkshire at Southampton on Monday.
Photo: Philip Brown/Getty Images