Kent versus Australia, now there’s a fixture to conjure with. 1882 marked the first contest and in the 33 first class games, Kent have won six but lost sixteen.
In an era of IPL and short sharp tours the four day game at Canterbury might appear to be a bit of an anachronism to some, but for many it is one of the highlights of the season.
For the county being awarded a four day first class game against the Australians, particularly the first of their eagerly anticipated tour is an honour, especially when you realise they are only playing two four day and two three day Tourist games against counties on the entire 2015 tour.
Thirty years ago they played eight four day games, six three day games and seven assorted one day games against every county except Warwickshire plus the MCC, a combined Oxford and Cambridge University XI and even the Minor Counties! It began on the 5th of May and ended six Tests and just three ODI’s later on the 2nd of September 1985.
On a purely practical level the game is potentially quite a lucrative one for the county. With more than 4,000 spectators expected for each of the first three days it could generate much needed income as well as interest.
Given Kent’s home at Canterbury is one of the non-test match grounds it is a rare chance for local cricket fans to see global stars like Clarke, Smith, Haddin, Warner, Watson, Siddle, Starc and (pantomime boos at the ready) Mitchell Johnson up close and personal without forking out £60-£100 to see them at Lord’s or the Oval.
I appreciate it is only a warm up game and the only thing at stake is pride, but I have grown up relishing any game against the mob from down under.
As a wide-eyed thirteen year old kid I marvelled at Botham’s Ashes in 1981 on terrestrial TV, I first attended an Ashes game in 1985 (we won!), but then had to endure the late 80’s, entire 90’s and early 00’s before I was lucky enough to be at the Oval that fateful day when finally, magnificently, England won back the urn.
My most vivid memories are of the Oval crowd serenading Shane Warne “We only wish you were English!” to which he magnanimously doffed his cap and the rather petulant behaviour of Tait fielding in front of us as another six from Pietersen sailed over his head! It was the first time (and only one of two in my lifetime) that I shed a tear at a cricket match.
The best day I have ever attended in my 36 and a half seasons of watching cricket. The second best came at the Oval in 2009 and the third in 2013, again at the Oval to make it a hat-trick of urn-waving delirium.
Kent’s results against the Aussies in my time feature a rain affected draw in 1981, a loss by 4 wickets in ’85, a drawn 3-day game in ‘89, a loss by 89 runs in ’93, and a loss by 6 wickets in ’97.
In ’01 we missed out completely, in ’05 we hosted a one day international Bangladesh vs. Australia, in ’09 we got the Lions vs. the Aussies in a bizarre two day one innings game that was overshadowed by Kent’s appearance at T20 Finals Day. Therefore this is the first time since 1997 that we will properly go toe to toe with them.
Given our recent Championship results the initial priority might simply making sure the game goes well into the third day, but there is plenty to be gained from seeing some of our young home grown players pit their wits against the best team in the world.
They have nothing to lose and will relish the challenge. You’d hope we’d field a full strength batting line-up, but as ever with tour games the bowling might be less strong with anyone carrying serious niggles getting a rest.
It might only be a “friendly” but it will be fun making sure the World Champions remember their trip to Canterbury. The crowd will no doubt give them plenty of advice whether it is a wide by Johnson or a grumpy glare by Warner.
I want this game to be a throwback to a previous era, thirty years ago counties took these games seriously, it could be fun finding out if it can still be the case! Enjoy responsibly and remember if you should so choose to give an Aussie fielder some choice Kentish sledging be prepared to cop some straight back "Mate"!