Kent reach English Twenty20 final

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Kent became the first team to reach England's Twenty20 Cup final on Saturday, beating Essex by 14 runs to earn a spot in the inaugural Champions League.

Updated: July 30, 2008 16:25 IST
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Kent became the first team to reach England's Twenty20 Cup final on Saturday, beating Essex by 14 runs to earn a spot in the inaugural Champions League.

Essex had appeared to be cruising as it chased down the defending champions' 173 for seven wickets, but a pair of late run outs swung the match back toward Kent and Essex could only make 159-8.

"They're a nightmare, Twenty20s, when you're in the middle of them," Kent captain Robert Key said. "They're fantastic when you're sitting back watching. But when you've won you think, 'What a great experience that was.'

"It's daunting because one over changes the game."

The victory at Southampton's Rose Bowl, which is also set to host the second semifinal between and Durham and Middlesex and then the final later in the day, earned Kent one of the tournament's two places in the proposed Champions League in India.

It also gave it a shot at a spot in the lucrative Stanford Super Series in Antigua that is open to the eventual winner.

Ravi Bopara took three wickets for 36 off four overs and Danish Kaneria 2-28 to help restrict a dangerous Kent side.

It looked like Essex were on track but Bopara, who opened the reply alongside Mark Pettini, fell caught and bowled to James Tredwell for 29 to leave the score at 78-1 midway through the ninth over.

It was 88-2 soon after when Graham Napier, who had been expected to be one of the stars of the day after scoring 152 not out from 52 balls last month, was dismissed for just 3, skying a delivery by Simon Cook to fall to an uncharacteristic running catch from Kent captain Robert Key.

"He had so much buildup and there was so much focus on him and how good a destroyer of bowling he is," Key said. "Unfortunately nothing like that matters when you get in to these games."

Grant Flower was then run out for 17 and Pettini for 54 in the 15th over to leave Essex on 117-4.

"They were big wickets," Pettini said. "That's the difference between the two sides."

James Foster holed out for 9 soon after as Yasir Arafat conceded just four runs off the 18th over, and Azhar Mahmood deceived Ten Doeschate with a slower ball to bowl him for 18, leaving Essex needing 27 off 11 balls.

It never looked likely as Kent wrapped up a win that potentially causes a headache for the England and Wales Cricket Board.

Although the dates, rules and regulations for September's Champions League remain uncertain, Indian cricket officials have insisted that players who appeared in the rebel Indian Cricket League will not be eligible, a ruling that would potentially affect Durham and Kent.

Play started in late morning and the stands slowly filled up as the match progressed, although, with traffic and delayed train services affecting travel to the south coast, there were still some empty seats when the first match finished at 2:20 p.m. local time (1320 GMT).

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