Hampshire are to lift the trophy having played some exceptional cricket to reach the final, breezing through qualification by topping their group before hammering Yorkshire in a one-sided semi-final at the Ageas Bowl.
Key to their success has been the calm captaincy of James Vince and his own outstanding batting form.
Since being axed by England at the start of the summer, Vince has batted supremely well in both white-ball and red-ball cricket and his 171 against Yorkshire was an innings of rare quality which all but sealed Hampshire’s place at Lord’s.
Vince might well feel harshly treated by England having batted with promise against the likes of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Trent Boult throughout the winter but if the selectors wanted him to start making big runs more consistently, he has certainly taken the hint.
In red-ball cricket Vince has proved vulnerable outside off stump, often playing away from his body and driving at the moving ball.
However, such a trait has proven to be a real strength against a white ball that offers very little in the way of lateral movement and instead, Vince has been able to give himself plenty of room and dominate through the off-side, something he did so well in the semi-final.
His battle with Kent’s New Zealand paceman Matt Henry could go a long way to deciding the outcome of this game, the latter enjoying a strong season so far and having been rested for the recent County Championship match against Middlesex.
Kent also opted to rest the evergreen Darren Stevens for that same match and if there is anything in the wicket, his medium pacers will, as always, prove a handful.
Stevens and co will know plenty about another of Hampshire’s big guns as Kent’s former captain Sam Northeast lines up against his old club having switched allegiances over the winter.
In South African Heino Kuhn and the classy Joe Denly, Kent have two players who are averaging 94.85 and 80.00 respectively in the competition so far.
Kunn’s 127 helped them chase down Worcestershire’s daunting 306 in their semi-final while Denly has played nine ODI’s for England and has enjoyed enough success in overseas competitions to demonstrate his capabilities.
With that pair and Daniel Bell-Drummond comprising their top three, they will be hopeful of springing a minor surprise but how well they counter Dale Steyn and the new ball will go a long way to deciding which way this final goes.
Steyn – who celebrated his 35th birthday this week – has been the outstanding bowler of his generation, taking 419 Test wickets at an average of 22.32 for South Africa to go with his 180 ODI scalps.
Though plagued by injuries over the last couple of years, Steyn has looked fit and well since arriving on these shores and was nearing somewhere close to his best against Yorkshire before claiming five-wickets against the same opposition in the County Championship a few days later.
Whilst capable of bowling above 90mph in his pomp, it has also been Steyn’s impeccable control and natural outswing that has kept him at the top of the tree for so long and though he doesn’t quite reach the same frightening speeds he once did, he remains a mighty fine bowler who will surely come alive on the big day.
Steyn will be backed up by a strong Hampshire bowling outfit which also includes the canny Reece Topley, though they will be sweating on the fitness of spinners Mason Crane and Liam Dawson.
Steyn’s presence will certainly be a big boost to Hampshire and might mean Kent have to take a more conservative approach early in their innings if the likes of Kuhn and Denly are to flourish at the back end.
An on-form Steyn, armed with a new ball, won’t be an easy proposition – as Yorkshire found out in the semi-final – and Hampshire look a good bet at 10/11 to post the highest total in the first 15 overs.
With the aggressive Rilee Rossouw at the top of the order, Hampshire have become accustomed to making quick starts and his strike-rate of 103.46 in this year’s competition is almost as impressive as Vince’s own strike-rate of 110.52.
In comparison, of Kent’s top three, only Kuhn (102.62) is striking above 100 and they haven’t had to face a pumped up Steyn as yet.