Runs are coming as readily to Martin van Jaarsveld right now as tennis matches to Roger Federer. Yesterday, unfazed by Steve Harmison's high-velocity efforts to keep alive Durham's defence of the Friends Provident Trophy, the South African batsman continued his prolific form to power Kent to their first 50-over final since 1997.
Harmison, clocking up to 92.5mph on the speed radar in two five-over spells, took all four Kent wickets to fall as he returned his best one-day figures for Durham for five years.
But there was no checking Van Jaarsveld, who took his aggregate in the competition this season to 602 from eight innings with his fourth century, finishing unbeaten on 122 from 93 balls as Kent totalled 301-4, the innings reaching a climax with three sixes off Albie Morkel.
Earlier this week, the 34-year-old scored centuries in each innings – as well as taking five second-innings wickets – against Surrey in the Championship.
Durham's decision to make Kent bat first backfired heavily, with England Lions batsman Joe Denly also reaching three figures in a stand of 105 with Van Jaarsveld for the second wicket, although the 22-year-old rode his luck at times, notably on 37, when Will Smith got his fingers to a difficult chance at deep cover. Twice too he almost edged the ball on to his stumps.
If Liam Plunkett, in particular, and Shaun Pollock bowled well without much luck, Harmison picked up the successes he deserved, ending an opening partnership of 96 between Denly and Robert Key when the latter edged to the wicketkeeper before, in a second spell that brought 3-13, bowling Denly, Azhar Mahmood and Justin Kemp.
Durham, needing to surpass the ground record of 290 for the biggest total chased down, began badly when openers Michael Di Venuto and Phil Mustard fell in the first two overs.
Captain Dale Benkenstein (80 not out) and Will Smith composed a century partnership for the fourth wicket to keep them in the hunt but only Paul Collingwood, with 36 after being given clearance to play ahead of next week's first Test, provided any support and the loss of the last five wickets for 10 runs handed Kent victory by 83 runs with almost seven overs to spare, off-spinner James Tredwell taking 3-37.
"Martin is like Roy of the Rovers at the moment," Kent captain Rob Key said, "and for Joe Denly to play like that under pressure and in front of a big crowd was fantastic."Reuse content