Yorkshire squeezed into the Royal London One-Day Cup semi-finals by beating Kent by 11 runs in a slow-burning thriller under the Canterbury floodlights –
David Willey pinned James Tredwell lbw for 17 with the fifth ball of the 48th over to complete a game which had ebbed and flowed to the delight of a near-capacity crowd of almost 6,000.
Adam Lyth top-scored with 88 from 96 balls, hitting a six and eight fours, as Yorkshire reached 256 for 9 from their 50 overs after being asked to bat.
Matt Coles took 3 for 39 from his ten overs for Kent and Charlie Hartley, a 22-year-old seamer playing in only his third List A game, dismissed both Joe Root, for 45, and Jonny Bairstow in his ten-over stint of 2 for 42.
Hartley, coming in at No 10, then almost took Kent home, scoring 15 in a nail-biting ninth wicket stand of 29 in 6.2 overs with Tredwell before being lbw to Adil Rashid’s googly to the last ball of the 47th over as Kent eventually could make just 245 in reply.
Kent initially slipped to 66 for 4 with Daniel Bell-Drummond, Sam Northeast and Sam Billings all out cheaply, but Darren Stevens and Alex Blake revived them with a fifth wicket stand of 86 in 13 overs.
Blake made 50 and Stevens 54 and, when they fell to Willey and Liam Plunkett respectively, it was left to Kent’s lower order to try to get them over the line. Despite their best efforts, they could not quite do it, with Plunkett finishing with 4 for 52 and Rashid bowling some crucial overs at the death.
Blake played brilliantly for 50 from 38 balls, hitting off spinner Azeem Rafiq on to the roof of the Underwood and Knott Stand for six and also including seven fours in a counter-attacking knock that shook Yorkshire’s international-class bowling attack.
Willey, however, cleverly decided to test the 27-year-old with a succession of short balls, one of which hit Blake a nasty blow on the chin, and won the duel when the left-hander flapped at another bouncer and edged through to the keeper.
Stevens, in his benefit year, also batted with great spirit in his 500th match for Kent in all formats – and 742nd in senior cricket overall – but the home challenge faded when he fell to a magnificent one-handed caught-and-bowled by Plunkett, flinging himself to his left.
Will Gidman managed 19, uppercutting Plunkett for six, before giving the same bowler another return catch and Coles, who briefly raised Kent hopes again with a four and two sixes smeared over the legside ropes off Rafiq, was stumped by Bairstow off Adil Rashid’s googly for a quickfire 22.
Willey had earlier pinned Bell-Drummond leg-before for 2 with the last ball of the second over, an inswinging yorker that hit the batsman on the boot, and Kent lost two more top order wickets in successive overs when Northeast chipped Plunkett to short mid wicket on 23 and Billings was beaten by a Steven Patterson off-cutter and lbw for one to his fourth ball.
At least Northeast had helped Joe Denly to add 50 in 9.4 overs for the second wicket, swinging Tim Bresnan’s medium pace into the adjoining building site for six in the process, while Denly drove Patterson for a maximum over long on and had also hit four fours in a 45-ball 31 when he top-edged an attempted swivel-pull at Plunkett and skied to mid on.
Lyth sprang from the traps in the early overs, thumping Mitch Claydon through the covers for four and then hammering a length ball straight for six. Alex Lees, his opening partner, also lofted Claydon for four but, from the next ball, he pulled to deep square leg to depart for 7 and leave Yorkshire 27 for 1 after five overs.
Root then joined Lyth in a stand of 90 in 18 overs that oozed quality, but just when it seemed the England No 3 was moving up the gears he was gone, for 45 from 55 balls with only three fours, brilliantly held on the deep mid wicket ropes by Blake who sprinted to his left and leapt to hold a flat pull and give Hartley the first success of a day to remember.
Bairstow, after one sublime push-drive for four wide of mid on off Hartley, then fell for 7 as he mis-hit to Bell-Drummond at a deepish mid on to give the young seamer his second high-profile scalp.
redwell bowled a typically steady ten-over stint of off spin, though without success, and the return of Coles for the 34th over brought immediate reward when left-hander Lyth was beaten by a fine ball angled across him down the slope which he thin-edged to keeper Billings.
Bresnan and Willey were then removed in the same over, the 39th, by Will Gidman as Kent – who had bowled with discipline and fielded like tigers – began to sense Yorkshire’s unease and turn the screw.
Bresnan, having laboured to 10, scooped tamely to short extra cover and Willey flicked at a legside delivery and was smartly caught by Billings, moving to his right.
Hartley returned to finish his 10-over allocation, almost having Plunkett caught and bowled and then hitting the England one-day international on the grille of his helmet as he tried to pull a short ball that stuck in the pitch. Gidman, meanwhile, beat Ballance with successive deliveries that seamed away from him.
It was no surprise when Plunkett, who could not get going, skied Coles to Northeast at extra cover for 16 from 21 balls, leaving Ballance and Rashid to collect what runs they could from the closing overs.
Ballance, having struggled to 37 from 55 balls, was run out when Rashid turned down a third run and he could not get back to the bowler’s end and Coles pegged back Rafiq’s off stump for 1 to take his competition wicket tally to 24 at 17.41 runs apiece.
A straight four and pulled six by Rashid off Claydon in the final over took Yorkshire beyond 250 but they had looked certain to total nearer 300 when Lyth and Root were together.