Kent Cricket Season Preview 2013

Sunday 14th April 2013

Men’s First Team

Kent Cricket Season Preview 2013

2013 Season Preview
Captain: James Tredwell
Last season: Third in the County Championship, third in CB40 Group C, fourth in FL t20 South Group

After a season of consolidation, improvement and just missing out, Kent Head Coach Jimmy Adams will be looking to make 2013 a season of even greater success. With new skipper James Tredwell at the helm and a mix of experience and youth, Kent are being viewed as dark horses in many quarters.

In this preview we take a look at all things Kent Cricket as the LV= County Championship gets underway this week for the Club.

With a much changed squad, 2012 proved to be a more enjoyable season. In came seasoned professionals Charlie Shreck, Mark Davies, Brendan Nash, Mike Powell and Ben Harmison to compliment what was an already impressive group of players. The result was a more competitive team, which led to a promotion challenge and a near-miss in the Clydesdale Bank 40. This season Adams, who signed a new contract over the winter, will be looking to execute success across all forms of the game.

The number one priority remains promotion back to division one, after a three-year absence. Last season Rob Key’s men were just edged out of the top two places by Derbyshire and Yorkshire. This time around they will, undoubtedly, look to go one better under the leadership of Tredwell. The off-spinner is now in charge and, after a successful winter with England, he will be raring to go as he looks to put his own stamp on the team. Key, a prolific run-scorer since breaking into the side, remains an integral part at the top of the innings.

Tredwell's playing style suggests he might take a methodical approach to captaincy, but he is certainly ready for the challenges ahead. He captained the second XI at an early age and his team looks more than capable of competing across all formats.

In four-day cricket the Kent batting line-up looks full of runs. Key will be joined at the top of the order by prodigious duo Sam Northeast and Daniel Bell-Drummond. The former showed fine maturity last season, on his way to just shy of a thousand First-Class runs, and the latter was highlighted by England great Alec Stewart, on his recent visit to the St Lawrence Ground, as being one to watch this summer.

Following that exciting trio comes the experienced middle order of Nash, Powell, Darren Stevens and Geraint Jones, all heavy run-scorers and able to provide great balance. West Indian Nash proved to be a shrewd overseas capture, and is Kent’s sole left-hander in the top seven – making him a crucial cog in Tredwell’s side.

Last season Kent’s bowling attack of Shreck, Davies, Matt Coles and Tredwell, complimented by the medium-pace of Stevens, was the most formidable in division two. The development of Ivan Thomas and the capture of former Somerset all-rounder Calum Haggett, after a successful spell in Kent’s title winning second XI, will be crucial this season – if Adams chooses to rotate his charges. Back-up spinner Adam Riley will also play a part, with Tredwell likely to be on international duty during the summer. The youngster recently staked his claim taking 4-48 for Loughborough MCCU, against Sussex.

Kent have plenty of depth to their squad. In addition to the names mentioned, the likes of Harmison, Alex Blake, Sam Billings and Adam Ball are all ready to stake their claim in four-day cricket. A year after winning the division one title, Lancashire fell through the trap door and will be looking for an instant return. Essex and Hampshire will also hope to improve on disappointing finishes last term.

The Kent Spitfires will take part in the Yorkshire Bank 40 competition this season, a year after they narrowly missed out on a place in the semi-finals. Again they compete in a tough qualifying group – with the likes of Warwickshire, Sussex and Nottinghamshire all expected to feature prominently.

However, with a finely tuned blend of youth and experience, the Spitfires should be worthy opponents again to all challengers. Academy graduates Billings and Ball impressed last season and will look to continue their development in limited-overs cricket. Opener Billings, especially, showed sparkling form – mixing brutal hitting, sumptuous timing and canny improvisation to finish the CB40 campaign as top run-scorer with 315. His performances in front of the Sky Sports television cameras drew admiring comments from their pundits as they picked him out as a future England player. 2013 provides Billings with the platform to push home his talents, making him the one to watch in the Spitfires YB40 side.

Kent’s weakest competition performance last season came in the Friends Life t20, where they fell short of qualification honours. Despite this, the Spitfires still host a number of t20 match-winners. Stevens is arguably one of the finest players in this form of the game and he still maintains the record as the highest t20 run-scorer on the domestic circuit. The all-rounder also tasted success during the winter months – claiming Bangladesh Premier League glory for the second time with the Dhaka Gladiators. He remains Kent’s main threat in the t20 competition. Billings will again look to provide the county with a flying start at the top of the innings while Blake will hope to cement his place in the middle-order. As a strong sweeper and clean-hitter, 2013 is a big summer for the left-hander as he looks to realise his talents.

In the bowling department, Davies led the way with tremendous accuracy and a good economy rate while Ball and Stevens are relied on to play a containing job in the middle overs. Tredwell poses a threat on all surfaces with his guile and flight. If an overseas bowling all-rounder can be added, to complement Matt Coles – who is quickly learning his trade as a promising death bowler, then maybe the Spitfires could provide stiff opposition. However, the south qualifying division is undoubtedly the toughest group of them all with defending champions Hampshire, Sussex, Essex and Surrey all looking strong once again this season.