London ball

Darren Stevens, Kent’s all-rounder at the start, hopes the Royal London One-Day Cup final won’t be his last game for the side

Darren Stevens will hope Kent’s Royal London One-Day Cup final this weekend won’t be his last game for the team.

The popular all-rounder played a vital role in their successful One Day Cup campaign this summer.

Darren Stevens, versatile Kent at the start. Photo: Barry Goodwin

The 46-year-old – who is expected to leave Kent at the end of the season – has not played in a County Championship game since May.

With just two more red ball games to come this year, the showdown at Trent Bridge could be Kent’s swansong after a sparkling spell at Canterbury.

But Stevens said: “I hope not. There is always still a chance and a hope.

“I came in and bowled for about 40 minutes at Jack Leaning on Monday with a red ball and I’ll probably do the same for the rest of the week, just in case there’s a slim chance I’m bowling next week in Hampshire.. My name is in the hat.

” I told them [Kent’s management team] I always want to be chosen. I’m crossing my fingers to be chosen, but if not, let’s just try to get the win on Saturday.

Stevens has twice won the T20 Blast competition in Kent, first in 2007 and again last year, and will now have the opportunity to help the Spitfires win over 50 tournaments.

The cup competition – which has taken different forms over the years – has not been won by Kent since 1974.

“That would be amazing,” Stevens said. “Winning trophies is our job, isn’t it? We are professional cricketers and our job is to win cricket matches to put us in contention for trophies.

“Winning in 2007 was incredible – even though I had only been at the club for a few years. We had only won one Blast title, and to do it again last year was phenomenal.

“But I think the one that will haunt me is not winning the County Championship with Kent. I was involved – I didn’t play – but I was involved in 1996 and 1998 at Leicestershire in the team there.

“It was amazing to be there. You just dream of being a winning player bringing you a trophy like that, but it never came.

“But winning trophies is key. Leaving with two, I would be happy.

“But to come away with a third Saturday, that would be amazing.”

Stevens says he is happier than most of this year’s finals at Trent Bridge, saying: “I’m glad it’s at Trent Bridge because I played four finals at Lord’s and lost the four !”

In their semi-final success against Hampshire, Stevens hit a 65-ball 84 not out but he will be perfectly content to play less of a role against eventual opponents Lancashire this time around.

“I hope I don’t come in and we take them out!” he said.

“But that would be a fairy tale ending, wouldn’t it?” A few wickets with the ball and 60 or 70 steps out would be incredible.

Kent reached the final in 2018 when they lost to Hampshire.

Comparing the Class of 2018 and the Class of 2022, Stevens said, “There are a few new faces, although there is still an old guard.

“We just found a way this year. Ben Compton has probably been the most consistent then Ollie Robinson, but there isn’t a single person who has stood out. It’s not the same person every game that won us the game and got us over the line, it’s different people doing different things.

“When you start slow, win a game, lose a few and then lose another, then that’s knockout cricket. You just go with the flow.

“The big debate was ‘Don’t let your mate next to you win the game, you win the game’ and that’s kind of how it went throughout. It was nice.

“The momentum has changed now and we go into the game in good shape.”

With the Royal London One-Day Cup now clashing with the new competition Hundred, the level of the old competition is not as strong in some people’s eyes.

But Stevens said: “Obviously you lose a few players to The Hundred.

“I would say Hampshire are probably the youngest group on the circuit, but they still have three or four senior players. They categorized it a few years ago as ‘The One Day Second Team Cut’ but I think that’s mediocre, I think that’s wrong.

“There is a lot of good cricket. This has given opportunities to young people who are doing well.

“One guy, Tom Perst, in Hampshire has shone and he’s a good player. There are a few other good young players hanging around who have had their chance but I think it’s better than what people have conceived.

Ahead of the final, Stevens says there is both excitement but also an air of calm in Kent’s camp.

“It’s another trophy to fight for,” he said. “There is a lot of excitement, but a lot of calm.

“Calm has been the word for the last five or six games, we have been a calm team and we have performed.

“There’s a lot of excitement but obviously there will be nerves at the bottom.”