Kent travel to Trent Bridge today for their Royal London One-Day Cup play-off against Nottinghamshire. Not something most Kent fans expected after their opening two group game defeats at Hove and Radlett.
Prior to the Glamorgan game, qualification looked a long shot, the game itself was a must win, but Kent duly did just that in front of an excellent sunbathed crowd thanks to the efforts of Joe Denly. Set 275 to win, super Joe followed up his canny 4-56 with a stunning unbeaten 150 to take Kent home with 11 balls to spare.
Two days later I spent the morning watching a feeble England defeat at Lord’s to Pakistan. It finished so early we ended up taking much of our remaining picnic up the Jubilee Line to Wembley for the League One play-off final between Rotherham United and Shrewsbury.
My fellow Kent fan made fine use of his arm being in a sling due to a recent shoulder operation contriving to smuggle the remnants of our red wine from Lord’s onto the concourse at Wembley for a sneaky tipple… In all the confusion I forgot all about Kent’s game at Hampshire until I received an undoubtedly excited but garbled text from a fellow Kent fan. Apparently, we had won…
It wasn’t until I’d got home and deciphered what had transpired before I could grasp the magnitude of the win. A win by one run, when so few were required with five wickets in hand from the final two overs was extraordinary. I re-watched Haggett and Henry’s hypnotically decisive overs on YouTube, wow, just wow.
The following Tuesday saw a rain affected win over Somerset in front of the Sky cameras. A solid team effort although Denly and Henry were once again to the fore.
The following Friday saw an almost perfect win for Kent. The sun shone down on Beckenham and a bumper crowd of over 4,000 witnessed a remarkable performance.
Kuhn played the anchor role with 117 but the whole team chipped into what became a monster total of 384-8, equaling Kent’s list “A” score against Berkshire at Finchampstead in 1994 (60 overs). The Surrey bowlers were smashed to all corners, the ever cheerful Batty going for 96 off his nine overs, had he racked up his century we planned a standing ovation!
The Surrey reply was always under scoreboard pressure and once Roy went they capitulated in 30.1 overs to 164 all out. Stevens picked up a wonderful 6-25 in a quite remarkable victory by a whopping 220 runs. One of the all time great Kent one-day performances.
Two days later and once we had all negotiated the rail engineering works and the new Thameslink timetable, we were back at Beckenham for another frazzling sunny day of beer, ice-cream and Kent winning. I could get used to that! In another run fest Gloucestershire racked up 322-8 off their 50 overs. Kent responded well and chased it down with three and a half overs to spare. Kuhn 113 and Denly 109* again led the way as Kent qualified with a game to spare.
Such was my enthusiasm and desire for Kent to secure a home play-off or even a home semi-final I even travelled to Chelmsford. Unfortunately, on another sunny afternoon things didn’t pan out quite so well. Bopara (125) and Lawrence (115) clattered our bowling all over Chelmsford on their way to 337-7 which looked impossible after 30 overs but the final ten saw brutal carnage. The reply got off to a stuttering start and was never up with the required rate. A loss by 7 runs would still have seen us at home in the next round but it was a resounding 153 in the end…
All is not yet lost though, Nottinghamshire away is of course tricky and the winners travel on to an impressive Worcestershire in the last four, but if we are to final achieve that Lord’s Final win we will have to do it the hard way.
Back in the Championship and Gloucestershire thwarted Kent on a flat wicket at Bristol having been made to follow on. A rare failure for Henry but if Kent are to maintain their promotion push in the second half of the season his return could be decisive. At least it is fun being a Kent fan at the moment. We have a team with players consistently performing, Denly is like a man reborn, Kuhn exceptional and Henry quite remarkable. It will be interesting how they do against high quality opponents in a one-off game.