So it’s that time of year again when, after three months in hibernation, I finally think seriously about the forthcoming cricket season in 2015.
With the Christmas lights twinkling and the comedy festive jumpers out in force the deadline for the “Earlybird” Membership at Kent renewal is fast approaching.
It always feels a bit odd dreaming of sunny days at The Spitfire Ground,St Lawrence around the shortest day of the year with the football season in full swing, but with the county cricket fixtures now out and England on their way home from another underwhelming crack at the one-day game it won’t be too long before we’re shivering in April in between the showers and bemoaning England’s departure from yet another World Cup.
Another tradition around now is pulling an appalled face at the latest price rise for Test match tickets for the Ashes – £80 being the cheapest at Edgbaston for any of the first four days (£15 higher than the most expensive ticket to watch England play competitive football at Wembley may I add) and then ordering a couple anyway!
For those wishing to get their grumbling in early there is also usually Kent’s fixture list, but given what they have to try to fit into five months, the requirements for television and the wish list each county presents to the ECB each year it isn’t too bad really.
News that the Tunbridge Wells festival has been moved to dodge the frankly apocalyptic precipitation that has dogged it over recent years is perhaps a sure fire guarantee for Noah to start building his ark come the middle of July, but at least with the temporary stand guaranteed and two one-day games scheduled West Kent should have their festival back properly next summer.
For those in North Kent and South London, the rejuvenation of Beckenham sees a LV= Championship match and two Natwest T20 Blast games including the visit of Surrey which will hopefully see the new 2,000 seater permanent stand filled, certainly a more balanced schedule for those not living in the East of the county.
For many the highlights at Canterbury will be the visit of the Australians, although Kent might have to stick out a stronger team than of late against touring sides if the want to cash in on all four days financially and Cricket Week.
Next season the Festival features the usual LV= Championship match, but also two one-day games and as a bonus the Women’s Kia Test versus the Aussies for the Ashes and it doesn‘t clash with the Oval Test this time.
With three of the seven Natwest T20 Blast home games and only one of the four Royal London 50-over home games under lights it also means those reliant on public transport will be able to see the end of games.
For those intrepid souls that travel away from home there are also some highlights, a T20 at Lord’s under lights at last, a Friday night at the Oval if you don’t mind having to dodge the beer snakes in the same competition and a nice mid-season visit to the Oval in the LV= Championship for the connoisseurs.
A Natwest T20 Blast at Cheltenham should be an unusual experience and then for others they will be getting their maps out to find where exactly Radlett CC is for the one-day game at Middlesex.
On the pitch fans will be gradually mulling over the options, the return of Joe Denly will be welcomed by many as will the reappointment of Rob Key as captain.
There were obviously promising signs from several young players last season including Billings, Riley, Bell-Drummond and Northeast.
There will be high hopes that Darren Stevens can continue to take the definition of “all-rounder” to the extreme and also that James Tredwell can use his guile and experience (in between England duties) to win us a few one-dayers.
Now obviously last season was a bit of a mixed bag, but despite the slightly deflating conclusion after the semi-final defeat at Edgbaston, most Kent fans would say it was a season of progress.
Hopefully that will be the case next summer when there will be more moments like the stunning home win over Middlesex in the T20 despite a ton by Dan Christian, the astonishing see-saw tie at the Oval where 628 runs were plundered and any number of belligerent knocks by young Lion Sam Billings.
It might seem a long way off in mid-winter, but the dreamy days of a lovely day at the cricket watching Kent rack up the runs against Essex or skittle Surrey are the sort of thing that can get you through even the dreariest dank old day in mid-January after the tinsel has been packed away for another year.
It might be unfashionable and yes, it will rain, but in a non-World Cup year with the Aussies in town for the summer the antidote to the wintertime blues is as ever to get that Membership paid for ready for a new season of… well we shall see – although if Santa delivers a fast bowler down the chimney that will undoubtedly help!