Kent Academy players tour Sri Lanka with Sussex this Winter

Tuesday 5th March 2024

Talent Pathway

Kent Academy players tour Sri Lanka with Sussex this Winter

Kent’s six Academy players combined with eight of their peers from Sussex for a challenging match-play tour in the Asian sub-continent from 9 – 19 February.

Kent’s Head of Talent Pathway, Min Patel, talks us through the tour of Sri Lanka for our young Academy prospects:

After working hard through the Winter in the indoor centres at Canterbury and Beckenham, this was a chance for the players to test their progress against strong opposition in high heat and humidity. The players were accompanied by a coaching team of:

  • Simon Cook – Kent’s Director of Cricket
  • Min Patel – Kent’s Head of Talent Pathway
  • Keith Greenfield – Sussex Academy Director
  • Rachel Doyle – Sussex Physio

The first two days involved morning practice sessions (at Moors CC and Bloomfield CC) as well as some rest, recovery and acclimatisation. The local net bowlers supplemented our squad and eased the workload ahead of a schedule that consisted of five matches in six days:

Match 1 vs. Galle Regional XI at Mercantile CC

Kent/Sussex bowled first and did very well for 37 overs – taking regular wickets – having the opposition at 168-7 at this point. The 2 Sussex spinners combined for 5-56 in their 20 overs. However, from here, our death-skills execution was disappointing and Galle reached 281 all out by the end. A score that was certainly over par on a turning pitch.

In reply, against a battery of highly competent spinners, Kent/Sussex were skittled for 126. This did provide a very clear and early marker of the challenges the lads would encounter on this tour.

Match 2 vs. Dambualla Regional XI at Bloomfield CC

Kent/Sussex batted first and got off to a fast start with Ekansh Singh making 30, but regular wickets from the spinners left us in a precarious position at 121-6. A rebuild was engineered by Ollie Curtiss with help from Eastman (33) and a late blast from Barney Ford (39). When Ollie finally departed for an exceptional 77 in difficult conditions, we posted 290 off the 50 overs.

Dambulla started very well in reply, but the introduction of the spinners (Laird and Wallis) saw wickets fall regularly. Only a some final wicket resistance allowed the opponents to reach 193 all out.

Kent/Sussex recorded a 97-run victory and a first win of the tour.

Match 3 vs. Kandy Regional XI at Nondescripts CC

Bowling first, Kenyon took 3 early wickets to put Kent/Sussex on top. A century stand for the 5th wicket allowed Kandy to get to a competitive 242 all out in 48 overs. Barney Ford, Laird and Walker all took wickets apiece to bowl the opposition out.

The run chase started excellently but went suddenly from 142-2 to 142-5. Ben Dawkins steadied the ship and played brilliantly for 84, but when he was dismissed with the score on 200, the target looked some way off. This looked even more challenging when another mini-collapse reduced Kent/Sussex to 217-9. Ekansh Singh batted with great composure and skill with the number 11 to complete a one wicket victory with 52no.

Match 4 vs. Surrey Academy at Nondescripts CC

The best time to bowl seam on this tour has always been in the morning with pace and movement that quickly disappears as the sun dries out the wicket. Avinou took two early wickets but all the seamers were not able to control the movement and with a lot of wides and a few boundaries, Surrey’s run rate was already an issue. Karpe played very well for 108 and with some good allies chipping in, Surrey scored a formidable 356-8.

Kent/Sussex were able to maintain a healthy run-rate in reply, but the need to maintain meant there were also regular wickets. Lawrence 51, Laird 49, Ben Dawkins 36 and Vish Parakirama 31 all tried valiantly but ultimately, we were dismissed for 230.

Match 5 vs. Surrey Academy at Nondescripts CC

Ben Dawkins (84), Ollie Curtiss (73) and Vish Parakirama (30) all batted beautifully to allow Kent/Sussex to post a decent 285 all out.

Again, the seamers were not able to control the new ball or the rate of scoring allowing Surrey to get off to a flying start. Not for the first time, the spinners Laird (2-30) and Wallis (2-26) bought Kent/Sussex back into the contest. When the seamers returned they had better control with the old ball and they picked up intermittent wickets. In the end, Surrey got over the line by 3 wickets and an over to spare.

Overall, this was a fantastic tour for players to be challenged and adapt to different conditions, realise the mental and physical needs to succeed in draining conditions and the importance of good off-field habits with regards to rest, recovery and re-fuelling.

The excellent service provided by Smile Group Travel from pre-tour to the end allowed the whole touring party to focus on the cricket. Many thanks to Graeme and Georgina and their local handling team (Island Leisure Lanka) for all the hard work behind the scenes to ensure that everything ran as smoothly as it did.

Min Patel – Head of Talent Pathway

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