Kent v Surrey – a 300 year rivalry
By Hon. Curator David Robertson
ON27th June 1709 a cricket match was played at Dartford Brent between teams representing Kent and Surrey. The match is recorded in Peter Wynne-Thomas“s “The History of Cricket – From the Weald to the World”. It is generally recognised, indeed is described, as the first “inter-county match” played. Whilst the result is not known, it was played for a £50 stake, maybe not quite the equivalent of the desirably forgettable “Stanford Millions” of recent memory but certainly a tidy sum.
Thus began the oldest rivalry in county cricket which maybe doesn“t match in intensity that of the Roses encounters but does nevertheless epitomise the game of cricket and what it means to the supporters of neighbouring counties. In those 300 years there has been well over 300 matches played, some in the early days which can only be described as quirky, many close and intense, some with remarkable outstanding individual performances and some on which the ultimate destination of the County Championship and more recent competitions, were decided.
Although reliable records go back to 1815 which is the year that the late Bill Frindall recognised for his “Wisden Book of Cricket Records” we know that Kent teams, although not necessarily fully representative of the County, played frequently from the early years of the C18th with many of those matches being against Surrey.
The joint work of the Fourth Lord Harris and F.S. Ashley Cooper, “Kent Cricket Matches 1719-1880” highlights some interesting early matches. The first to record a result is that held at Croydon on 1st July 1731 which Surrey won, fielding a team all the members of which were named Wood! Kennington Common on 10th September 1733 witnessed a further match for which the pre-match publicity announced that “to render it more commodious to the spectators, a great part of the said Common will be formed into a ring and roped round.” Three years later in a closely fought match on the same ground Surrey scraped home by two wickets after being reduced to 24-8 in their second innings. The game was completed in a day with Kent scoring 41 and 53 and Surrey 71 in their first innings. According to accounts a great deal of money was won and lost “…..but the Game was so skilfully and justly play“d on each Side that the very Losers went away satisfied.” It was reported that during the game three soldiers apprehended a Kentish Man for desertion but “……the Populace hearing of the Matter join“d and rescu“d the Deserter out of their Hands, and after a severe Discipline let them go about their Business.”
Hostilities appear to have been suspended for the next ten years when at the Artillery Ground in 1746 Kent was represented by a team “…..drawn entirely from Bromley, Bexley and Eltham”. The result is not recorded. Kent came out on top in two of the three matches played in 1750 although it was touch and go in the final match with Kent winning by one wicket with five runs still needed when the last man went in. It is unlikely that the two XIs when the match ended were the same as at the start because it was announced before the match commenced that “Each County has a right to change their men for any other provided they live in the county they play for.”
There is again a long gap until 19th July 1762 when, at Carshalton the match ended abruptly owing to a dispute “about one of the players being catched out, when Surrey was 50 a-head in the first innings; from words they came to blows, which occasioned several broken heads, as likewise a challenge between two persons of distinction; the confusion was so very great, that the bets were all withdrawn.”
The first detailed, although not complete, scorecard is of the match played at Laleham Burway on 11th and 12th June 1773. It was played for what was then a massive £1,000 and Surrey won by 35 runs. The record indicates individual scores and how the batsmen were dismissed but does not identify bowlers or fielders. Intriguingly, it records all eleven players on both sides and in both innings as having been dismissed. Frederick Lillywhite“s Scores and Biographies (Vol.1) identifies this as the first recorded match between Kent and Surrey although it acknowledges that several matches may have been played previously. Unlike “Kent Cricket Matches”, it does not indicate how the batsmen were dismissed. Kent“s team included the 3rd Duke of Dorset, owner of the Sevenoaks Vine ground and one of the outstanding patrons of the game, and Sir Horatio Mann, similarly described, who arranged important matches on his grounds at Bishopsbourne and Linton. This was the first of four matches between the sides that year.
The other three matches played in 1773 were at Bishopsbourne and Sevenoaks followed by another at Laleham Burway. Surrey won three of the four. The matches at BIshopsbourne and Sevenoaks give full details of the batsmens“ dismissals and in all cases identify a “not out” batsman.
There seems to have been no more than four further matches between the two counties from 1773 and 1828 at which point we have the records of Kent“s statistician, Howard Milton. Of those four matches in the pre-records period Surrey came out on top in three of them including a first recorded innings victory in the match played at Moulsey Hurst in July 1788. Kent had to wait forty years before wreaking revenge when, in 1828 at Godalming, they won an innings victory, dismissing Surrey for 53 and 57. Just eight days later a second emphatic victory was recorded at Sevenoaks (the only time the two sides have met at The Vine) when Surrey was again dismissed cheaply, this time for 66 and 41. Their second innings score remains the lowest recorded by Surrey against Kent.
Kent“s first appearance at The Oval was in 1846, which was the first meeting since 1828 between the two counties.. It was to have an historic significance, being the first ever county match to be staged on that famous ground, which had been opened the previous year. Despite the Kent side including Alfred Mynn, Fuller Pilch, Thomas Adams and William Hillyer, Surrey inflicted a heavy defeat on their visitors. It was the first of 131 matches so far played at this historic venue which has witnessed much rivalry, many stirring contests and outstanding personal performances between these neighbours
The following season spectators at The Oval witnessed the first of only two recorded ties between the sides when, despite having three wickets in hand, Kent was unable to secure the winning run. Compensation came just two weeks later at Aylesford, when William Hillyer achieved a bowling performance which still stands as a match record for Kent against Surrey. He took 14 wickets in a Kent victory by 100 runs. The number of runs he conceded is not known, although as Surrey was dismissed for 45 and 74 it can“t have been many.
Surrey was one of the early county visitors to The Mote, playing the first of 20 matches there in 1861. It was not a happy first visit for them, being subjected to a heavy defeat by nine wickets. It was Kent“s first victory against them since 1852 and the County“s success was witnessed by many famous old Kent players from the Grand Old Kent XIs of the 1830s and 1840s including Alfred and Walter Mynn, Edward (Ned) Wenman and Thomas Adams. Fuller Pilch was one of the umpires. Around this time Kent had played a number of matches against England and other opponents in which they had, by arrangement, fielded teams of 14, 15 or even 16 players. After this latest victory against Surrey “Bell“s Life” was prompted to comment that, “the winning confers more cricketing honour on Kent than winning twenty mongrel matches of fifteen against eleven”.
The Mote was of course the scene of a much more recent historic occasion when it was witness to Colin Cowdrey“s 100th first class century, the third Kent batsman to achieve this outstanding feat. Twenty-three years after making his debut, Cowdrey scored his 99th and 100th centuries in successive matches at the 1973 Maidstone Festival with his 100th being against Surrey. Batting at number seven he shared an undefeated partnership of 202 with Asif Iqbal, who also scored a century. Unfortunately, this historic occasion was not to end in a Kent victory – rain intervening at a time when the match was evenly poised.
1862 saw the start of a run of Kent defeats, with Surrey winning 9 games in succession, many of which were by wide margins. Those years, and the period of some thirty years from 1860, saw Surrey as the dominant county, winning 30 of the 52 games with Kent being victorious on only 11 occasions.
Although the County Championship was not formally introduced until 1890, there are records which list the “unofficial” Champions for the years 1826 to 1863 and further records covering the seasons 1864 to 1889 which quote seven different, though reputable sources, for the Champions over those years. Between 1826 and 1863, Kent was the “unofficial” champions nine times, whilst Surrey achieved the distinction on eight occasions. However, in not a single one of the years 1864 to 1889 is Kent identified by any of these seven reputable sources as Champions whilst Surrey are identified by six of the seven sources in 1888 and 1889. It was a period when the midlands and north were dominant.
But this was the beginning of a time of dominance for the Metropolitan county. In the first decade of the official Championship they carried off the title on no less than six occasions and were runners up once. Kent was regular victims, being defeated on twelve occasions and winning only four of the twenty matches played.
However, things began to improve for the Hop County from the turn of the century to the outbreak of the first World War which saw Kent as Champions four times, runners-up twice and in third place three times. In those fifteen years Kent won 16 of the 30 matches against Surrey whilst Surrey managed just six victories. The 1905 Oval match was tied, only the second such result, the first being in 1847. The 1914 match was played at Lord“s as the Oval had been requisitioned by the Army. The change of venue certainly suited Kent“s left-arm wizard Colin Blythe, who took 9-97 in Surrey“s first innings. Unfortunately, his performance did not inspire the rest of the team, being dismissed in both innings for 140 in what was Jack Hobbs“ benefit match. Four years earlier Blythe took the first hat-trick of his career in the match at Blackheath. He actually took four wickets in five balls and five wickets in ten balls. In a match seriously affected by rain his victims included the legendary Tom Hayward, Herbert Strudwick and W.J. Abel. It was the second time a Kent bowler had achieved a hat-trick against Surrey, the first being at The Oval in 1890 by medium pace bowler Fred “Nutty” Martin. His achievement did not merit a mention in “Wisden“s” match report which was far more concerned with what was described as an extremely severe accident to Martin“s bowling partner Walter Wright who suffered a compound dislocation of the left thumb for which he spent five weeks in St. Thomas“s hospital. Hat-tricks against Surrey have been repeated on three other occasions, by Frank Woolley in 1919, “Tich” Freeman in 1934, both at Blackheath and more recently at The Oval in 1985 by fast bowler Graham Dilley. Surrey bowlers have achieved hat-tricks on just two occasions, both in relatively recent times: Roger Harman at Blackheath in 1963 and Robin Jackman at Canterbury in 1968.
One especially memorable game during this early period was that played at the Oval in August 1911 which the Surrey and England wicket-keeper Herbert Strudwick chose as his benefit match. In front of large crowds it was, however, the performance of his opposite number, Fred Huish, who stole the limelight and dominated the match. Never before, or since, has a wicket-keeper stumped nine batsmen in a match, but that was what Huish did on this occasion with four such dismissals in the first innings and five in the second. For good effect he caught one as well! His performance beat that of Surrey wicket-keeper Edward Pooley who, in 1878 stumped eight Kent batsmen in the match at The Oval. On a “sticky wicket” (uncovered in those days) outstanding bowling performances by Douglas Carr, who took eight Surrey first innings wickets with his quickish leg breaks and googlies, by Frank Woolley with his slow, left-arm deliveries, seven in the second innings for nine runs in 39 balls and by William “Razor” Smith, with his thirteen in the match for Surrey, could not take away from the forty-one year-old Huish, a performance which remains a world record. Sadly, for him and Kent, it did not end in victory for, in an exciting low scoring match seriously affected by rain, Surrey came out on top by nine runs. Had the result been in Kent“s favour, the Championship would have come to them for the third successive season. These personal achievements are recorded in the Chiesman Pavilion at Canterbury, in which is displayed one of the balls used in the match.
Blackheath, apparently described somewhat erroneously as “Surrey“s Graveyard”, staged by far the highest number of matches of any ground on Kentish soil with a total of 55 being played at the Rectory Field between 1889 and 1970. Given that the two sides each won 16 matches there it can hardly be described as a graveyard for either side. However, it would certainly be accurate to use that description for Kent“s performances at The Oval, where Surrey has been the hosts on all but seven of the 138 away matches. Kent has come away as victors just 20 times!
No Kent bowler has achieved “all 10” in an innings either home or away, but current MCC President Derek Underwood, described at the time as the best wet wicket bowler in the world, will have fond memories of a second innings 9-32 on such a wicket at The Oval in 1978 which, added to his four in the first innings gave him match figures of 13-49. In one of Kent“s all too rare victories on that ground, and despite struggling to 272-8, the match was won by an innings and 102 runs with Surrey being shot out for scores of 95 and 75, eighteen of those wickets falling in not much over four hours on the final day after the second had been almost totally washed out. This was one of the heaviest defeats Kent has inflicted on its near neighbours.
Likewise, Tony Lock will have remembered with affection the Rectory Field for it was there in 1956 that he recorded match figures of 16-83 including all 10 in the second innings. Of all Kent“s defeats at the hands of Surrey, this is probably one of the heaviest with opener Tom Clark making his career best score of 191 and Peter May, an undefeated 128 in Surrey“s 404-4 declared. In their two innings Kent could only muster 101 and 130. It was the second time in a week that they had been completely outplayed by Surrey. Lock came close again two years later with eight first and seven second innings wickets, again at Blackheath but on that occasion he was on the losing side.
Many of the pre-first World War and inter-war years featured two of the finest batsmen in any era of English cricket and the two who scored more first-class runs in their career than any other batsmen. Jack Hobbs and Frank Woolley between them amassed more than 120,000 runs in Tests, representative and County Cricket. And in matches between the two counties Hobbs scored 2697 runs with 12 centuries and Woolley 3568 with 8 centuries. Hobbs“ final century against Kent, at Blackheath in 1933, came in his penultimate season when he was 51 years old.
Although Woolley scored more runs than any other Kent batsman, Leslie Ames also enjoyed playing in these local derbies. Ames, another Kent player with more than 100 first-class centuries and considered by many as England“s best ever wicketkeeper-batsman, holds the record for the most centuries against Surrey, with nine. Two of these came in the same match, at Blackheath in 1937 with scores of 119 and 127. The first of the eight double hundreds he scored in his career was exactly 200 against Surrey at Blackheath in 1928. But back to the second innings of the 1937 match when he shared a third wicket partnership of 139 with Frank Woolley, who also scored a century. Woolley“s eight centuries against Surrey included a double hundred at The Oval in 1935. In Surrey and England“s Andy Sandham“s benefit match, the tall left-hander hit 229 out of 344 in 190 minutes, an innings which Wisden described as “……..one of the finest displays of his long career”. Kent“s score of 579-8 declared, completed on the first day off 110.4 overs, is the highest by Kent in all Kent v Surrey matches and Woolley“s remains the highest individual score by a Kent player in Kent v Surrey matches. Kent opener Arthur Fagg also scored a century and with the diminutive “Tich” Freeman taking nine wickets, Kent“s victory by ten wickets will not have been the most memorable for Surrey“s beneficiary.
On five occasions Kent players have recorded centuries in each innings of a match. The first to do so was Wally Hardinge who, in the Benefit Game for Kent“s long serving medium pace off-break bowler Bill Fairservice, scored 207 in Kent“s first innings of 464-9dec and contributed a further undefeated 102 in the second innings. That was at Blackheath in 1921. There was a second double hundred in that match, scored by Tom Shepherd of Surrey, who exceeded the innings of Hardinge with an undefeated 210. More recently, Neil Taylor emulated the achievement of Hardinge with innings“ of 204 and 142 at Canterbury in 1990. His was one of three double hundreds in that match with Alec Stewart and David Ward each scoring 263. Darren Bicknell almost became a fourth double centurion, falling short of the magic figure by just fourteen runs. The Ward/Bicknell third wicket partnership of 413 is the highest for any wicket in all Championship matches, against Kent It was a game which produced 1,450 runs and was the second high scoring, inconclusive game of the season between the two sides. Kent wicket-keepers Leslie Ames and Alan Knott have also achieved two centuries in the same match, as has current captain Rob Key.
Surrey has featured significantly in Kent“s Championship winning seasons both prior to WW1 and in the 1970s. In their first Championship year of 1906 Kent won both matches although in the first at The Oval it was a close run thing with Kent victorious by just one wicket. Outstanding in his debut season was the nineteen year old Frank Woolley who, after taking three of the first four Surrey wickets to fall, scored 72, double that of every other Kent batsman except Ted Dillon (37). He then took a further five second innings wickets and for good measure showed great maturity by steadying the ship with a not out 23. When last man Arthur Fielder, who had also taken eight wickets in the match, arrived at the wicket, 19 runs were still needed for victory. Although Kent won the return match at Blackheath more comfortably, had Surrey been victorious at The Oval, they, and not Kent, would have been Champions. Despite a poor summer weather-wise, Kent repeated their double victory in their second Championship season of 1909. The first, at Blackheath, was by the overwhelming margin of an innings and 62 runs. Their score of 483-8 declared included centuries by Woolley and A.P. Day. It was Kent“s sixth successive home victory against Surrey. The return match at The Oval was again a decisive victory with Kent“s 355 dominated by an undefeated 152 by one of cricket“s great all-rounders, Jack Mason who, with Colin Blythe added 141 runs for the last wicket in seventy minutes. Some years earlier, Mason had narrowly missed two centuries in a match at The oval, scoring a first innings 98 and 147 in the second.
But the following season (1910) Kent“s third Championship in five years, a drawn first match at Blackheath was seriously affected by the weather with Kent losing just three first innings wickets after dismissing Surrey for 133. The return match resulted in only the third Surrey victory in 22 matches stretching back to 1899. The final pre World War 1 Championship for the County in 1913 provided a home win for each side. Kent“s heavy defeat at The Oval was one of only three during the season in which they won 20 of their 28 matches. Their earlier victory at Blackheath had seen another outstanding innings by Woolley who, in just over four hours scored 177 out of 331. The next highest scoring Kent batsman was D.W. Jennings with 40.
Possibly the most pulsating of all Kent“s wins against Surrey in their Championship winning seasons was that played at Blackheath some 57 years after Kent“s previous success. And it is one that is still talked about by those who witnessed it. Although the destination of the Championship was not settled until Kent“s final match of the season at The Oval in mid September, it was the Blackheath game some two weeks earlier which many felt clinched the title. In an era when Kent could sometimes field as many as nine or ten players with international experience, none was more popular than the Pakistan player Asif Iqbal. This was the time in Championship cricket when adventurous batting was rewarded with bonus points, one being awarded for every 25 runs scored above 150. There was no more adventurous batsman on the county circuit than Asif and in that game at Blackheath, the last County Championship match played there, he scored an undefeated century in two hours, hitting a six and ten fours. But more importantly, his innings and those of Mike Denness, Brian Luckhurst and Colin Cowdrey, helped Kent to seven batting bonus points. After Surrey had been dismissed for 211, a timely but challenging declaration left the “brown caps” with three and a half hours to score 263 for victory. They came mighty close! With nine wickets down and 13 runs needed, their number eleven, Pat Pocock, went for a six off the fifth ball of the penultimate over. It was Asif, racing round the long off boundary, who brought off a sensational catch to see Kent home by twelve runs. Whilst the focus was on the batsmens“ achievements, Graham Johnson, in his first full season, was the outstanding bowler with match figures of 12-151.
By the time of Kent“s next serious challenge, the hero of that 1970 success, Asif Iqbal, had assumed the captaincy. But The Oval match was not without controversy. In a rain interrupted game Surrey captain John Edrich, who had scored a century in each innings, was warned by the umpires under the Law relating to Unfair Play, after his bowlers had managed only eight overs in the first forty minutes of Kent“s second innings when they were chasing 244 in two and a half hours and following two declarations. Kent settled for a draw after losing Asif and Alan Ealham who had put on 71 in quick time. The earlier match at The Mote also had its moments of surrealism when Surrey, having failed to react positively to Kent“s poor first innings score of 187, took 127 overs to score 283. With no prospect of a home victory and Surrey“s chance of winning becoming remote, the match ended farcically with twelve successive maidens being bowled and every Surrey player, with the exception of wicket keeper Richards, having a bowl. By this time, the scoring of bonus points had been restricted to a maximum of four each for batting and bowling. Had Kent managed just thirteen more runs in the match at The Mote they would have again won the Championship outright, instead of having to share it with Middlesex.
However, the following year when the Championship came by exclusive right to Canterbury, and in a season when there were no England calls on Kent“s players, two overwhelming victories against Surrey were achieved in the short space of two weeks Both victories were won by margins of an innings and more, remarkably so in that Kent“s scores were 311 in the first match and 272 in the second. There were declarations on both occasions with the bowlers keen to take advantage of favourable conditions at Tunbridge Wells and The Oval. In the home match, Graham Johnson“s figures of 9-50 were a personal best and with Derek Underwood also taking advantage of the rain-affected pitch, Surrey, in their two innings, were unable to get anywhere close to Kent“s first innings total in which West Indian John Shepherd scored his first Championship century in three years. Another rain affected Oval wicket a fortnight later saw an almost identical situation unfold. Kent“s total of 272-8 declared proved too much for the Surrey batsmen. This time, inevitably,
given the conditions, it was Underwood who proved their undoing. Nineteen first innings overs for just seventeen runs and four wickets, supported again by Johnson with 4-22 saw Surrey collapse to 95 all out. Second time around proved an even greater disaster. They could muster only 75 with Underwood unplayable, taking 9-32. Second highest scorer was “extras” with 12!
Of all the matches played in recent seasons, two stand out. At Guildford in the memorable Ashes season of 2005, and with these traditional rivals competing for top spot in the Championship, more than 1,600 runs were scored over the four days off 402 overs. Kent“s first innings score of 572 in reply to Surrey“s 452 is the fourth highest for the County in Kent v Surrey matches. The innings was dominated by a partnership for the fifth wicket of 233 between Matthew Walker and South African Justin Kemp off 53 overs. In a match which was seemingly meandering towards the draw which appeared to be Surrey“s unambitious aim, there was an unexpected turn around. After being 240-2, with the wicket taking spin and combined with some spectacular close wicket fielding, their last eight wickets fell for just 110 runs, the innings closed on 350 off 120 overs. This left Kent to score an unlikely 231 off 35 overs post-tea, a required rate of 6.6 runs per over. After an opening stand of 83 in 14 overs, wickets fell steadily. With the score at 175-6 and just six overs remaining, a Kent victory seemed most unlikely. But that was to dismiss the determination of Justin Kemp who, for the second time in the game played the sort of innings which had been expected of him following his treatment of England“s bowlers in South Africa the previous season. His undefeated 47 included three sixes out of the ground and in partnership with wicket-keeper Niall O“Brien 17 were scored from the penultimate over, leaving just four required which were scored off the first ball of the final over.
Right up to the present time these matches have shown the fascination of first-class cricket with its unpredictability being such a feature. As has so often been the case, in 2008, the season in which Kent fell from the Championship“s first division for the first time, the game at The Oval epitomised that fascination and unpredictability. Following the first two days which saw Surrey in the dominant position, no one would have given Kent much of a chance even after they had mounted a partial recovery on the third day by dismissing their hosts for a second innings 130 in which Scott Newman with 72 and Chris Schofield (20) were the only batsmen to reach double figures. On a turning wicket Kent“s vice-captain and South African star Martin van Jaarsveld had followed up his first innings unbeaten hundred with five wickets for just 33 runs. Nevertheless, with Kent going into the final day at a rather desperate 166-5 and requiring a further 92 to bring off an unlikely victory on a difficult wicket, their chances were not good. But get there they did! Another undefeated century by Martin van Jaarsveld sealed a remarkable win and created a personal record for him as the only Kent player to score two not out hundreds and take five wickets in an innings in one match. He batted for just twelve minutes short of eight hours and faced 316 balls. An outstanding achievement and in the best tradition of these local derbies.
And so it goes on! Just weeks ago and again at The Oval, Kent recorded their third highest innings total ever, with a score of 620-7 declared. The innings included four centuries, believed to be the first time that has happened at the historic Oval ground. The Kent total included a massive 183 from South African all-rounder Justin Kemp, his second highest first-class score, to set alongside centuries from openers Rob Key and Joe Denly and inevitably yet another from Martin van Jaarsveld.
With the introduction of limited over competitions in the early 1960s one would have expected the intensity of rivalry between neighbours to increase. This was a not unreasonable expectation especially given that these new competitions attracted larger audiences demanding instant success and developing a tribal loyalty more associated with the traditional winter game. Nevertheless, whilst that rivalry was evident on both sides of the county boundary, it has always been friendly, even when results have been close and much was at stake.
Given their relative strengths over the past forty or so years it is not surprising that there has been little to choose between the two counties in overall results. Of the 69 matches played in the various competitions, Kent has been successful on 35 occasions with Surrey winning 31 times. Just two matches have been abandoned and one tied.
As with the Championship, there have been memorable team and individual performances. Those who remember the early days of the Gillette Cup, the first and most noteworthy of all limited over competitions in which Kent, after painstakingly coming to terms with the new format, excelled for a time, will not forget the performance at The Oval by Alan Dixon, who, in the 1967 Quarter Final, almost alone got rid of a strong Surrey batting line up with a Man of the Match performance. With his medium paced off-breaks he dismissed seven batsmen including John Edrich, Mickey Stewart and Ken Barrington. In his allotted twelve overs he conceded just fifteen runs in a Surrey total of 74. That year, Kent gained its first limited over trophy. In this premier one-day competition where the counties faced sudden death until a format change in 2006, Kent played Surrey on only three occasions between 1963 and 2006. But with the introduction of the zonal based competition the four most recent games played have left honours even. Surrey scraped home by just one run at Canterbury in 2006 in a match reduced to 30 overs whilst at The Oval the following year in what was ultimately a losing cause, Robert Key (108) and James Tredwell (88) rescued Ke