|Vitality Blast quarter-final, The Spitfire Ground, St Lawrence, Canterbury|
|Kent 162-7 (20 overs): Billings 56, Bell-Drummond 53; Bresnan 4-26|
|Birmingham Bears 141 (20 overs): Lintott 41; Milnes 4-24|
|Kent beat Birmingham Bears by 21 runs|
Kent sealed a clean sweep for the South Group sides in the T20 Blast quarter-finals as they booked a place at Finals Day for the first time in 12 years.
Sam Billings led from the front with 56 as Kent beat Birmingham Bears to join Somerset, Hampshire and Sussex in the last four of the competition.
Chasing 162-7 under the Canterbury lights, the Bears buckled from 36-1 to 55-6 to lose by 21 runs on 141.
Kent, 2007 winners, face 2009 victors Sussex at Edgbaston on 18 September.
Hampshire and Somerset will meet in the other semi-final, a repeat of the 2010 final.
Billings and Daniel Bell-Drummond (53) each took 37 balls to ease Kent to a decent, although slightly sub-par, score.
But the Bears then collapsed alarmingly before some fabulous late fireworks from Jake Lintott and Tim Bresnan gave the visitors some false hope.
The Bears’ defeat, in their first quarter-final in four years, turned into a repeat of their only previous T20 meeting with Kent, in 2008, a 42-run loss, also at the last-eight stage.
The only two survivors from that match were England pair Joe Denly and Chris Woakes, who made a surprise first appearance in almost two months after recovering from a heel injury.
Bell-Drummond and Billings on the button
After being put in by Bears captain Will Rhodes, Kent were only 46-2 after the powerplay, despite Bell-Drummond slapping successive sixes over mid-wicket off Danny Briggs.
But no sooner than Bell-Drummond had shared a 50 stand with Billings and reached his own half-century, he perished to a smart piece of thinking by Jake Lintott to run out the Kent opener.
Billings arrowed a straight drive which broke the stumps at the non-striker’s end but Lintott had the presence of mind to grab the ball, uproot the stump and run out Bell-Drummond.
Captain Billings ought to have followed soon after but a missed stumping by Michael Burgess proved costly.
They lost Jack Leaning when he mistimed a pull to launch a steepling catch off Craig Miles which the bowler ran 30 yards to take.
But, although he departed in the final over, Billings still marshalled a Kent rally of 50 from their last five overs to set the Bears a target of more than eight an over.
Bears collapse before Lintott’s late heroics
The Bears made a tidy enough start but Adam Hose and Chris Benjamin both holed out when starting to look dangerous before Kent’s spinners struck twice in successive overs.
Afghanistan leg-spinner Qais Ahmad bowled Rob Yates, then, just four balls later, off-spinner Jack Leaning claimed the prize wicket of Sam Hain.
Leaning then struck again when Bears skipper Will Rhodes missed a full toss, before Burgess slapped another full toss, this time off Ahmad, to mid-wicket.
Woakes offered hope with a quickfire 14 before being taken by a stunning overhead catch in the deep by Alex Blake.
That brought in Lintott, fresh from last Saturday’s success in The Hundred with Southern Brave, against Birmingham Phoenix.
The schoolteacher-spinner bludgeoned three sixes and three fours with a variety of inventive shots as he smashed 41 off 20 balls in a stand of 54 with Bresnan.
But, when he was bowled by Adam Milne off the last ball of the penultimate over, all hope was lost and Bresnan and Danny Briggs both perished too in the final over – as Kent ended a run of four defeats at this stage in the past 10 years.
Edgbaston, 21 September, 10:30 BST
Hampshire: Eighth Finals Day: Won (2010, 2012), semi-finalists (2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017)
Somerset: Sixth Finals Day: Won (2005), runners-up (2009, 2010, 2011), semi-finalists (2012, 2018)
Sussex: Fifth Finals Day: Won (2009), runners-up (2018), semi-finalists (2007, 2012)
Kent: Fourth Finals Day: Won (2007), runners-up (2008), semi-finalists (2009)