This time last season Kent had won three of their first four Championship matches to sit second in the table and once again Kent have won three of their opening four Championship games thanks largely to the incredible bowling of Matt Henry.
The Sussex home game was again impressive, Kent winning inside three days by 58 runs despite a spot of rain and picking up just the one batting point. Once again Heino Kuhn was the only batsman to shine and Henry was the architect of the victory.
The sun shone, it felt like summer had arrived on day three as the Nackington Road Grumblers had less to grumble about than usual.
Henry’s brilliantly biffed 55 set up the target and then, despite some doughty resistance by Brown, they had no answer to the Kiwi’s laser fast bowling, stumps were sent cartwheeling all over the place in his 6-53 (10-122 in the match).
Enthused by such a performance I opted to go to Hove for the opening 50 over game, it was a bit of a slow chug by rail down via Hastings and along the Sussex coast, but the sun was out, the countryside in full bloom and Hove is a charming venue.
There was a healthy crowd too boosted by a significant number of Kent fans but there the optimism was shattered by a harsh dose of reality.
Bell-Drummond (90) aside, the batting was a bit of a disaster, only Blake and extras also made double figures and during a twenty over period of spin Kent managed just one miserable boundary off the bat. 188 was never going to be competitive and Sussex strolled home by seven wickets with more than ten overs to spare.
What did bring some amusement to the proceedings was the influx of several school parties to enjoy the live experience, play on the outfield between innings and be given a tour of the museum.
All laudable aims to get more kids interested in the game. The teachers did a fine job herding kittens during the day. The kids appeared to enjoy their trip, queuing on the boundary for autographs, demolishing their pack lunches prematurely, scoffing ice-creams with gusto and scaring each other with spiders.
The also watched the cricket, the teacher nearest to us did a valiant job explaining to his young audience that you applaud good shots by both sides. He also explained leg byes and the concept of spin bowling. Bravo sir.
What most took my attention was when one of the kids shouted, “come on the pinks!” (Sussex were wearing a particularly garish cerise ensemble) and the boy next to him replied “No, not pinks! SUSSEX!”
They all immediately understood the concept, they were kids from Sussex, Sussex were their team, they started chanting “Sussex! Sussex!” which aside from waking a couple of snoozing Members up, illustrated perfectly that for people to care about a team sport they have to care about one of the teams and it has to mean something.
It had been a lovely day out spoilt by the result, but I wasn’t going to get too downhearted over one result. Unfortunately, we were no better at Radlett. I had a prior appointment watching Bromley lose the FA Trophy Final at Wembley, but feared the worst when news came through that Middlesex had posted a not insignificant 313-9.
Kent fell short by 70 runs which made the first home game on Friday vs Glamorgan a must win tie. Hopefully the batting can fire and the likes of Denly, Blake and Stevens can enjoy one of those days…
As for the bowling, the most important item on the agenda is if possible to extend Henry’s stay for the second half of the season. Then we really could have a chance of promotion even without the luxury of many batting points.