Thank you cricket, thank you for helping me out of my post-World Cup football funk. When England lost to Croatia in extra-time I was heart-broken – particularly because I had a “conditional” ticket for the Final in Moscow.
Had England have got through I’d have been scrambling for an expensive flight to Moscow via Istanbul or Cyprus or some such outpost on an obscure airline I’d never heard of… but it wasn’t to be and I had to settle for Beckenham and Lord’s instead…
I admit I spent much of the Thursday feeling sorry for myself and went back to bed in a miserable grump. But come Friday and the T20 vs Hampshire (of all people) I found myself on the train to Beckenham and began to perk up.
It wasn’t just the sunshine or the convivial chat with fellow Kent fans, it was the fact that Kent are having an unexpectedly successful summer thus far and watching them can often bring joy to even the most broken hearted.
Unsurprisingly the outfield at Beckenham was parched and a run fest ensued. Bell-Drummond’s 46 was pretty nifty off 32 balls, but the bulk of the total was made by Billings. Perhaps he will get his mojo back playing regularly at long last!
His 95* was perfectly paced and took Kent to 210-4 which sounds huge but given the friendly wicket was perhaps only slightly above par.
It was looking anything but after Denly’s first over reduced them to 6-2! Enter Northeast. Much was made of the mild panto booing incident at Lord’s, this time it was just a smattering of polite and cordial applause.
First ball caught by Dickson off Brathwaite, a hearty cheer and then slightly more enthusiastic applause and a few giggles as he trooped off with Hampshire 6-3! Game over?
Well no, to their credit they just kept going, keeping up with the run rate, at 50-4 they wobbled but rebuilt. Dawson (75*) was the mainstay, but in the end, it came down to the final over.
Kent held their nerve and with the visitors needing a six to win and a four to tie off the final ball Claydon heroically denied them to secure a breathless and thrilling win by three runs! World Cup? What World Cup?
The following day and I was off to Lord’s for England vs India. I usually opt to attend a day at a Test rather than an ODI but given it was between the two highest ranked teams in the World I was intrigued to see how it panned out, especially after England’s drubbing in the first match.
Having experienced an uncomfortable crush at Lord’s for the Final only a few weeks previously, it was odd that even with a full house (8,000 more people) the crowd were able to circulate far more easily.
I even bumped into a certain Jamie Clifford and briefly had a chat about all things Kent. Apparently, plenty of people have been pulling his leg about our upturn in results since he left!
England racked up 322-7 thanks to Root’s 113 and a fine cameo by Willey (50) and India never got going. They were strangled by the England spin twins of Ali and Rashid and Plunkett profited from their squeeze (4-46).
Strangest of all was Dhoni’s constipated 37 off 59 balls. It drew genuine boos and catcalls from the many frustrated and angry India fans, I didn’t mind, it meant England were going to win. But it was a peculiar passage of play before England picked up the final wicket off the final ball to win by 86 runs.
Now this time next year the Cricket World Cup will have just finished (30th May – 14th July) and the $64,000 question will be can “Cricket Come Home” like “Football Came Home”? I don’t mean the trophy, the football version is off to Paris and India will still be favourites in 2019 but can cricket catch the attention of the nation, enthuse it and excite it like the national football team did quite so thrillingly over this summer?
Nearly 27 million watched England in the World Cup, not counting the hundreds of thousands watching in pubs and public viewing areas. Ask any football fan when was their first World Cup and they can tell you in minute detail the ins and outs, mine was 1978 in Argentina and I still remember the tickertape and Archie Gemmill’s goal as an awed ten-year-old… It is the best free advert football has for captivating the imagination of kids and the wider general public every four years and it works like a dream.
Ask even hardened cricket fans about previous World Cups and unless they have satellite tv they will vaguely stumble over which world cup was which, never mind individual results – admittedly not helped by various England debacles… So even if England manage to lift the trophy at Lord’s on Sunday 14th July 2019 don’t expect a nation to dissolve into hysterical euphoria because tragically most of them will be oblivious to the joys of England hosting the Cricket World Cup for the first time since 1999 when even Canterbury got to host England (vs Kenya).
Next up is the glory of Cricket Week, Surrey at home is always a big draw, as too should be Leicestershire given our push for promotion this season before we finish off with another T20 vs Sussex.
The CAMRA tent will be my first port of call to catch up with old faces and to see if Kent can maintain their fine form…