Sam Billings was full of praise for the “magic” interventions of Jordan Cox, who inspired Kent to victory in the Vitality Blast final with an unbeaten fifty and a sensational piece of athleticism in the field.
Having taken 17 balls to get his first 20 runs against Somerset at Edgbaston on Saturday evening, Cox injected some impetus into proceedings to finish on 58 not out from only 28 deliveries, with three fours and as many sixes.
Cox’s efforts helped Kent add 49 runs in their last three overs as they posted 167 for seven before the 20-year-old took centre stage in Somerset’s chase, leaping over the boundary rope to palm Lewis Gregory’s blow to Matt Milnes.
Milnes completed the catch as Somerset lurched to 94 for six before eventually settling on 142 for nine to lose by 25 runs and ensure Kent were crowned champions for a second time, 14 years after their maiden success.
Their triumph owed much to Cox, who has grasped his opportunity to impress this season with 367 runs in the competition at a hugely impressive average of 52.42 and strike-rate of 142.24, to the delight of Billings.
The Kent captain said: “He’s been our best player this year in the T20 Blast. At times he’s played a completely different knock where he’s just needed to get his head down and then you’ve seen his raw ability that we all see.
“To do it on a big stage like that is truly special, not to mention his fielding as well. He does practice a lot and he’s our gun fielder. He works hard at every aspect of his game.
Sam Billings hailed his team-mate’s impact (Mike Egerton/PA)
“Moments like that change the game, Lewis Gregory is incredibly dangerous and a bit of magic with the bat and in the field has been the difference.”
Cox had made an ignominious start to the day, nicking off from his first ball in the 21-run win over Sussex in the semi-final, and he revealed he was initially content just to avoid a second successive duck.
“It was more getting off a pair,” he quipped. “Once I got one I was happy, I could have stopped there if I’m honest with you.”
A moment of controversy arose in Somerset’s reply when Cox took a catch in the deep, only to collide with Daniel Bell-Drummond, going for the ball himself but thudding into his team-mate while simultaneously touching the rope.
A six was awarded but any sense the issue would overshadow the showpiece was avoided as Will Smeed, the batsman given a reprieve, holed out to Cox later in the same over by Joe Denly who alongside the 45-year-old Darren Stevens were the two survivors from Kent’s 2007 T20 triumph.
Cox had one more decisive moment in the contest to see off Gregory and said of his assist for Milnes: “Playing T20 cricket you try to do all that fancy sort of stuff and it hit the middle of the palm but on another day it might have clipped the finger and gone for six.
Jordan Cox palms the ball back into play for Matt Milnes’ catch (Mike Egerton/PA)
“It’s about the effort you put into it and I tried 100 per cent, if it didn’t come off everybody would have said ‘it was a great effort’, so it was a win-win, really.”
Somerset captain Gregory, whose side were grateful for an unlikely rescue act from the lower order in their two-wicket victory over Hampshire in their semi-final, was candid when asked about his dismissal.
“It p****d me off to be honest,” he said.
“But you see it day-in, day-out to be fair. The standard and calibre of fielders and the athleticism that you see nowadays is pretty special. As frustrating as it was for me, it was an unbelievable bit of fielding.”
Lewis Gregory was on the receiving end of Cox’s moment of magic (Mike Egerton/PA)
Of the result he added: “Unfortunately we didn’t quite bring our best stuff here, we got a get out of jail card in the semi and got over the line when we shouldn’t have, really.
“We gave ourselves a chance, unfortunately we didn’t quite get it right at the back end with the ball and failed to establish partnerships throughout the middle and just left ourselves too much to do.”