Heading in the right direction

Tuesday 23rd September 2014

Watching Gillingham FC fight out a rather drab goalless draw with Walsall at Priestfield on Saturday I couldn’t help but let my mind wander and wonder what might have been.

At the same time at a dank Lord’s, Warwickshire and Durham were doing battle in a rather old fashioned low scoring final of the Royal London One Day Cup.

It could have been us! Well actually we were well beaten at Edgbaston in the semi-final but that didn’t stop me fantasizing of a winning hit by Billings into the Tavern Stand and a chaotic pitch invasion by countless thousands of delirious Kentish cricket fans rushing on to salute their unfashionable heroes (yeah I appreciate that isn’t actually allowed anymore).

Unfortunately reality got in the way, a harsh and rather unforgiving one at that. I didn’t make it to Birmingham on that fateful Thursday and had to settle for a mixture of text updates from mates that had made it up there, score updates on Cricinfo, snatches of radio and then helplessly watching the denouement online at what liked a virtually deserted arena on an autumnal west Midlands evening.

Clearly Kent didn’t score enough runs (the overwhelmingly pro-Warwickshire Sky commentary team made that abundantly clear), and 215-8 was obviously below par, six of the top seven got in and then got out (all managing between 21 and 34), Billings was left stranded on 40 not out and had he and Griffiths not nursed the score from 161-8 it would have been even more decisive.

In the end the Bears chugged home with three and a half overs to spare and our season was all but over.

Obviously promotion was still a mathematical possibility but after the draw at home to Glamorgan where rain on Day Two intervened and then it dribbled to a rather absurd finish with Billing’s bowling on Day Four, it looked a long shot.

It has to be said most regular cricket fans more than appreciate the value of a hard fought or nuggety draw, particularly one that saves the day in nail biting circumstances, but the Glamorgan game ended in farce. Why so few teams are willing to declare to set up a possible finish is a continual bugbear for many fans.

They appreciate wickets are better and that teams are better at chasing down big targets, but given how much more a win is worth points wise compared with a draw, (even if you won one and lost two you’d be up on the deal), a little more imagination and willingness to contrive a target would be welcomed by people not happy spending a day of their life watching two teams going though the motions.

To be honest September has not really gone to plan cricket-wise for me, one of my aims this season was to finally tick off the County Ground at Chelmsford, an anomaly given I’ve watched cricket at fifteen of the eighteen counties, but never at Essex.

Aside from winning back the Dartford Tunnel/Bridge, I was also keen to experience the unique Chelmsford atmosphere having heard so much about it from the Nackington Road Grumblers.

Unfortunately my cunning plan to attend Day Three was somewhat compromised by Essex needing only 22 to win after Kent had only managed 198 and 151, albeit on a lively first day track.

I will be certainly hoping Essex fail to overhaul Hampshire in the promotion race so that I can complete my odyssey next summer…

The subsequent trip to Hampshire saw Kent in the ascendancy for much of the game but ultimately unable to collect those twenty wickets to seal the deal.

Making 507 including scores from the home-grown trio of Bell-Drummond (153), Northeast (128) and Billings (92) had the Kent faithful hoping for a fifth Championship win and first since Surrey at Guildford in July but final day rain and Smith not out 142 meant a Hampshire side following on were able to sneak a draw.

Kent’s final game at home to Gloucestershire at Canterbury is now rendered somewhat meaningless.

Technically Kent could finish as high as fourth but with nothing but pride to play for the Members will be hoping to be sent off into the winter with a win, or at least some rousing cricket to warm the cockles.

Last year Kent contrived to chase down 418 to beat promoted Lancashire, twelve months later and the chaps from Old Trafford have to beat relegation rivals Middlesex for any chance of dodging the trapdoor.

Logistically many Kent fans quite fancy a trip to Lord’s next season in the four day game, although even if Lancashire do contrive the “great escape” we’ll no doubt end up at unlovely Uxbridge for the umpteenth time!

Despite the downbeat ending though, the season has been better than the last few, better than last season and the green shoots of recovery are there to see.

Local young players breaking through and making their name for Kent is a thrill all fans can appreciate. They will perhaps look forward to 2015 with some relish which makes a nice change.