With the NatWest T20 Blast campaign up and running, where the short format goes next both on and off the pitch will be of great interest to Kent supporters.
The first game at home to Somerset was a bit of an eye-opener, a bumper 5,000 crowd (the biggest ever for a T20 home game in May) saw a spectacular run fest unimaginable ten years ago.
On a perfect batting strip with the boundaries drawn in a bit and fielding restrictions in place Somerset plundered 197-7 off 20 overs.
Astonishingly Kent probably reached the break relieved it wasn’t worse, Somerset had walloped 143-1 off 13 overs and looked set for 220-230.
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Allenby (91) and Trego (53) were the architects but a fine cameo with the ball by Cowdrey (3-18) dragged them back below 200. Game on!
Well that I guess is how T20 has changed the mentality of modern cricketers, they are not fazed by chasing 10 an over from the off.
Gone is the nudging and nurdling of the previous generation, the quiet ticking over in middle overs and saving wickets in had for a late slog, it takes bravely, and strength, both physical and mental.
Cricket might be a team game but in essence it is a whole number of individual contests, one batsman at the time, one bowler, so “being brave” is an individual responsibility each time.
Back in the day if you gave your wicket away cheaply and prematurely trying to hit the ball into next week you would be castigated but that led to conservative, constipated cricket when the one-day game in England was overtaken by other nations.
The T20 era has hastened that development, the shorter format means more risks can (and have to) be taken earlier. Somerset thrashed 20 fours and 8 sixes in their 20 overs, Kent responded with 19 boundaries and 10 maximums of their own.
The crowd lapped it up, forced into taking avoiding action to dodge the white missile being dispatched in their direction with incredible regularity and thanking their luck stars they aren’t a bowler!
Bell-Drummond and Denly chased the total down with calm brutality, Northeast helped finish it all off with nearly three overs to spare.
Ridiculous! It put Kent top of the embryonic table that after a couple of rounds was notable for the fact that all the Franchise wannabies big city test ground teams had lost to the unwanted, unglamorous “minnows”.
The knock-on effect of “being brave” in the T20 has had beneficial effects in the other formats too. Scores in the 50-over competition have mushroomed and run chases of 150 off the final 20 overs are now seen as routine.
Even in the Championship the safety first ethos is being nibbled away. This was illustrated beautifully at Derby. The hosts amassed a whopping 492, Kent responded with 412 (Dickson 207), then skittled the hosts for 94 leaving 176 to win.
With the elements closing in they knocked the runs off inside 33 overs, the final 4 balls being smacked for 6. In the Championship!
Unfortunately for Kent the Leicestershire home game was ruined by the rain, only a day and a half was possible making it more than 1,000 overs lost thus far and perfectly illustrating the insane folly of playing nearly half the Championship games by the start of June.
Genuine promotion hopes will still be nurtured but if Kent can’t get on the field of play then chasing down Essex will get tricky.
The most heartening thing thus far though has been the form of the batsmen, Bell-Drummond 124, Northeast 189, Denly 206 and Dickson 207 have already bagged significant centuries, something that was all too rare last summer.
Now it is up to the elements to let us play ball…the losses against Hampshire and Gloucestershire in the T20 was perhaps a reminder that there will be days it doesn’t all go to plan, but thus far results and performances have been heartening.
In both formats Kent will need to continue to “be brave”, safety first cricket is now largely redundant in limited over games.
That doesn’t mean reckless, but it does mean looking to score from the first ball, to find the boundaries, to pressure the opposition, to embrace opportunities and challenges, not shy away, easier said than done of course but it is what all the successful teams do now and Kent would like their share of success this summer.