It has to be said that since my last missive after the Surrey victory back in May the season hasn’t quite panned out as hoped for… At the time of writing Kent find themselves in a rather underwhelming sixth spot in the second division of the Championship having mustered just the two wins out of nine all season. Admittedly they have a game in hand on all those teams above them but with the unbeaten duo of Worcestershire and Hampshire 67 and 55 points clear respectively, to catch them would take quite some run by the Kent boys and clear weather into late September and a massive stumble by one or the other…
The Nackington Road Grumblers were of course living up to their name although it is the away form that has given most cause for concern with hefty defeats at Worcester, Bristol and Cardiff plus a rain ruined trip to Derby to show for their travels. Given Kent were unbeaten away last season it is quite an unfortunate turn of events. Being 33-6 on day one at against Gloucestershire having bowled them out earlier in the day for 252 was careless and the less said about the innings defeat at the hands of Glamorgan the better!
With that in mind the faithful turned up at the Derbyshire home game debating the prospects of victory to avoid slipping to the bottom of the table rather than promotion, one fan brandishing a wooden spoon (christened “Stumpy”) to be presented to the potential losers of three way fight between our good selves, the mob from Derby and Leicestershire. Thankfully a lively wicket and some splendid bowling by Stevens and Riley and a tough maiden Championship hundred by Bell-Drummond had the Kent Members saluting a victory inside three days although the dreaded pitch inspectors did show up to justify their existence… A vital win, but with Kent not hosting another four day game until the Canterbury Festival in mid August the team will have to try to make it a trio of wins on the road at Leicester and Guildford for the promotion campaign to not dwindle away once again.
The T20 campaign is also in a similarly precarious position, a blistering start of three wins in four including an epic game at home to Middlesex where a stupendous 129 by Christian nearly stole the points for Middlesex, had many dreaming of Birmingham, well another trip to Edgbaston anyway… Sadly another televised defeat, this time at home at the hands of a Bopara-inspired Essex somewhat took the wind out of our sails. Arguably we snatched a tie from the jaws of victory at Glamorgan and then not for the first time fell victim to a superb knock by Luke Wright for Sussex. A chastening last ball defeat at Gloucestershire despite Northeast’s heroics dropped Kent back into the chasing pack.
Like many Kent fans I made my annual pilgrimage to the Oval for the T20 Bash, it being a Wednesday night there weren’t quite so many beer-snakes to dodge and the atmosphere less hectic but it was a deeply disappointing evening. The Sky jinx struck again, although to be honest it was more to do with Kent not making the most of the power play and then getting stuck later on – twenty plus runs short at least. Surrey’s rapid response turned it into a bit of a procession which wasn’t pleasant when surrounded by squiffy Surrey fans laughing at us, but oddly with Essex, Surrey and Hampshire running away with the group the fourth and final spot is still up for grabs.
With four of their five remaining T20 games against the top four it might be a long shot, so victory on Friday night at the The Spitfire Ground,St Lawrence really is vital to sustaining any ambitions of progression. I appreciate some of the more “traditional” Members still don’t care much for the format but this season thus far has still delivered some memorable moments. The Middlesex game was a classic with Kent seemingly set for victory thanks to Blake and Northeast’s 50’s helping us post 208-4 but then Christian came in and smashed ten sixes and twelve fours before he was bowled by Griffiths at the death who picked up 4-22 amid the carnage
Results aside the Kent faithful have had plenty to digest and discuss, from the fate of Tunbridge Wells Week (mercilessly ravaged once again by the elements), minus the temporary stand, main score-box and well aware of the redevelopment going on at Beckenham was one. Another was the cost of on the day tickets (£30) to watch a much weakened side get trounced by Sri Lanka (my mate nearly went home when discovered the price when he got to the turnstiles) – a stronger XI will be required against Australia next summer or the much trumpeted and potentially lucrative four day game will last about two and a half!
With the England Test Side in seeming disarray and sparse attendances outside of London, there has been much talk of Adam Riley getting promoted to the England side. More likely is a place in the Lions Team in August, but in the medium term the dearth of spinners make him a genuine contender despite his inexperience. England’s early departure from the football World Cup and the better weather than last summer has protected cricket from getting completely swamped by the global extravaganza but with cricket about to take centre stage in the sporting firmament it would be nice if the loyalty and support of the loyal Kent and England fans was reciprocated not just in mutual appreciation, but in actual hard results. Easier said than done I know, but it will as ever be fun finding out!