Jamie Clifford’s Welcome – 24 – 27 Sept

Wednesday 25th September 2013

The last week of a cricket season is always a poignant time for everyone, and when I look back on the past six months I must start with the team’s on-field performance. It has been a frustrating season, especially in the LV= County Championship where we have drawn the majority of our games. We have been as hard to beat as some of the top teams in the division, but we have not managed to gain the number of wins required to challenge for one of the two promotion places.

In one-day cricket it has been a disappointing campaign. With the talent in our side we should have done better in both the Friends Life t20 and Yorkshire Bank 40 competitions, and I am keen – when analysing our summer and looking ahead to next year – that we change the way we talk about those frustrations and disappointments. Simply put, we have got to be better at closing out those games in which we get into strong positions; we need to be more ruthless in the way we go about all our cricket.

When we look back on this season, however, it is also right that we should recognise that we have seen some extraordinary individual performances by a number of players, underlining the quality in our current squad. Darren Stevens’ remarkable hundred in the Yorkshire Bank 40 game here against Sussex, supported by Sam Northeast’s maiden one-day century, will be remembered in future years as one of the greatest achievements in our county’s proud limited-overs history.

Brendan Nash’s heroic 199 at Cheltenham was one of the greatest championship innings by a Kent batsman – of any era. He eventually had to leave the field with heat exhaustion but, as with Darren a few weeks earlier, his efforts were thankfully also rewarded by victory. In Brendan’s case, moreover, I think it was an innings which at one stroke completed his transformation from ‘overseas player import’ to core Kent cricketer and someone who has won the respect of all our supporters.

Last week, at Northampton, Rob Key completed his 50th first-class hundred – truly a magnificent achievement – and he, Nash and Stevens also went past 1,000 championship runs for the season. The progress made this summer by a number of our younger players is another good sign for the future, as is the new contractual commitment of the likes of Sam Northeast, Daniel Bell-Drummond and Fabian Cowdrey to that future at Kent, while the signings of David Griffiths and Mitch Claydon are a response to identifying areas of our bowling attack that require attention. It is just a pity that Matt Coles, one of our own, has not chosen to be a part of Kent’s future.

We have, meanwhile, made significant progress again off the field, with important commercial gains and landmark moments in the continued restructuring of our business. The ten-year ground naming rights deal with Shepherd Neame, the agreement with McCarthy & Stone for the next major stage of the redevelopment of this ground and the breakthrough at Beckenham, in terms of a multi-million pound investment in new sports facilities there (including a high quality indoor academy), are all key strategic pillars in what happens next.

There is much work still to be done, but we have come a long way already and this year has seen further financial improvements in our position as a business. Thank you all for your continued support and understanding, and to the staff for their tremendously hard work on the club’s behalf. Finally, many thanks indeed to our President this year, Bob ‘The Cat’ Bevan, for the fun and enthusiasm he has brought to the role, in addition to his huge commitment.

Jamie Clifford