TWENTY20 CUP FINAL, The Rose Bowl:
Middlesex 187-6 bt Kent 184-5 by three runs
Middlesex let their emotions pour out following a sensational win
Middlesex held their nerve to win a scintillating Twenty20 Cup final by three runs as Kent failed to hit a four off the last ball at the Rose Bowl.
Owais Shah's superb 75 off 35 balls, including five sixes, underpinned the Middlesex innings of a daunting 187-6.
It was the highest score of a Twenty20 final ever, but Rob Key and Joe Denly's 89 stand in reply, and a 49 from Justin Kemp, ensured it went to the last over.
However, needing 16 to win, they fell agonisingly short as they ended 184-5.
It was a thrilling end to a sensational final, Tyron Henderson proving the hero at the last as he conceded just one run off his final two deliveries to seal the victory for Middlesex.
But the defeat could barely have been harder to take for defending champions Kent, who looked to have fought their way back from the brink at numerous times only to pull up short at the death.
And, with the Stanford matches against England and Trinidad and Tobago now lined up, the spoils on offer for the winners would double the Spitfires's pain - though they will join Middlesex in the proposed Champions League next season, providing problems over them fielding Indian Cricket League players can be resolved.
Kent skipper Key might have thought the writing was on the wall when Ed Joyce won a good toss and opted to bat, and even though Yasir Arafat's opening over yielded just two, Joyce smashed four fours off the second over to get his side's innings going.
A change of ball paid immediate dividends for Kent, Ben Godleman bowled by an Arafat inswinger, but the Spitfires's hopes of taking a firm grip on the innings were effectively dashed when semi-final batting hero Henderson was dropped by Azhar Mahmood at midwicket on just 10.
Joyce departed soon after when he was caught brilliantly behind by Geraint Jones, but Henderson - more agricultural in his shot-making than in the semi - again took the attack to the opposition, striking a couple of sixes both sides of the wicket.
Shah was happy playing a support role while the South African was hitting it to all parts, but when Henderson was caught in the covers by Key off what at first appeared, wrongly, to be a bump ball, the England batsman took over.
Shah was especially brutal on spinner James Tredwell, crunching three successive sixes over mid-wicket, and as he mixed up intelligent shot selection with the odd savage blow, Kent heads began to drop.
His superb innings was finally ended by a McLaren yorker, but Eoin Morgan struck two cheeky reverse-sweep fours to keep the scoreboard ticking over.
His departure - caught at mid-wicket off a top edge - pre-empted a stuttering end to the Middlesex innings, with Arafat and Mahmood showing all their skill and experience, the former ending with figures of 2-20 off his four overs.
The momentum appeared to be heading in only one direction when Middlesex closed on 187-6, but Kent openers Key and Denly had other ideas under lights.
Just as they have done all competition, the pair relied on textbook cricket shots, the former in particular using the full face of the bat to lace a series of boundaries through the off side, allowing Denly to slowly get his innings going.
Shah's explosive innings proved a match-winning effort for Middlesex
The pair made the most of the pace on the ball, using their feet well and playing both sides of the wicket, and with Key reaching his 50 off just 28 balls, Kent were suddenly right back in the mix.
However, just as in the semi-final, Middlesex spin pair Shaun Udal and Murali Karthik turned the tide.
First Karthik had Key splendidly caught behind to end a first-wicket stand of 89, and Denly then holed out on the midwicket boundary off Udal.
When pinch-hitter Arafat was run out by Joyce's direct throw soon after, the Kent innings looked on the verge of collapse, but two enormous sixes by Kemp underlined that there was plenty of life in the Spitfires's batting just yet.
It got the South African, so capable of clearing the rope, going nicely and when he was given a life, dropped by Joyce at mid-off on 24, it looked like the impetus had swung again.
Darren Stevens came to the crease and, with the asking rate creeping towards 12 and then 14 an over, he and Kemp just about kept the scoreboard ticking over enough to ensure they needed 16 off the final over to win it.
A savage four down the ground from Kemp, and then a bizarre throw from long-on from Dawid Malan that sailed past the keeper and cost an extra two runs, looked to have put Kent in the box seat - the Spitfires needing three off two balls to draw level with Middlesex and win the match courtesy of losing less wickets.
But Kemp failed to score off a Henderson yorker on the penultimate ball, and then he could only prod straight back to the bowler last ball to spark delirious celebrations from the Middlesex faithful.