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Khan back for Tunbridge Wells festival match against Essex

Sunday 14th June 2009

KENT’S cricketers begin a four-match spell of festival cricket tomorrow with an LV County Championship game against old rivals Essex at the Nevill Ground in Tunbridge Wells. Kent have enjoyed a good start to the four-day season and are currently second in the Championship table – just seven points behind leaders Gloucester.

Surprisingly, Essex have struggled and are currently second-to-bottom but Director of Cricket, Graham Ford, is expecting a tough battle: ’I think there are a number of good sides in this division and Essex are certainly one of them. They have some outstanding players; guys who can perform in all forms of cricket. Obviously Alastair Cook is a big factor but they have many other key performers too.’

Kent have two matches coming up at Tunbridge Wells and Ford says the players have to change their approach from a typical home game: ’There is obviously quite a bit of travelling involved for the players because most live in East Kent. It is not like a typical home game at Canterbury – it almost feels like an away game. Still, our players know all about the Nevill Ground now, having played there in the past, so we cannot say that we don’t understand the conditions.’

So, what kind of wicket is Ford expecting? ’Well I guess a lot depends on what kind of preparation has gone in. I think there has been a fair bit of rain so that can lead to the pitch playing more slowly and with lower bounce. At Canterbury this season we have had much quicker and bouncier pitches so it will be different for the boys at Tunbridge Wells. It will seem a bit like an away game so it will be harder to judge our game plans. We will need to assess the conditions quickly and then plan accordingly.’

Depending on the result of England’s World T20 game, against the West Indies, skipper Rob Key could be available for tomorrow’s game so Kent have named a 13-man squad for the game. Amjad Khan returns after a successful second-team outing. The England fast-bowler has recovered from a knee injury and Ford is clearly delighted to have him back: ’Amjad has had a good few bowling spells now and returns after lots of high quality rehab. His skill levels are pretty high so hopefully he will be able to bowl well for us. I think a huge factor could be how well he bowls alongside Robbie Joseph. With the pace they can generate, they could be very dangerous together.’

If England lose their game against the West Indies tonight then Rob Key could return to the squad. Ford has been watching lots of the ICC World Twenty20 and thinks the competition is proving a big success: ’I’ve watched quite a bit of the World T20 and it is proving a fantastic event to watch. England did well yesterday, against India, and I hope they continue it tonight – even if it means we have to wait longer for Keysy to return. The tournament is a real exciting product.’

Kent’s overseas player for the early part of the season, the South African Wayne Parnell, has proved a real find in the competition and is bowling well with both the new and old ball as Ford is quick to point out: ’Wayne is a quality performer and a fantastic find for South African cricket. He has bowled in lots of high pressure situations and has shown a great temperament. It is fantastic for him that he is getting plenty of opportunities. A few years ago, everyone said that South African’s bowling attack was one-dimensional. Now they have a talented young left-armer and lots of variations.’

So, with Parnell bowling so well, will it hamper Kent’s chances of getting him back for a second spell? ’Yes, it probably will make it harder for us as South Africa will want to control his workload’, said Ford.

’Before this tournament, he was a squad player but now he is becoming a man that is pencilled in pretty quickly on their team sheet. I think they will want to look after him pretty carefully, let him benefit from the opportunities he will earn, and not over work him. Sadly that will not help us with trying to get him back.’

Bowler Martin Saggers misses out from the team that drew up at Leicester, in the last round of matches. Rob Key will skipper the side, if England go out of the ICC World Twenty20. If they go through to the semi-finals then Martin van Jaarsveld will continue as captain.

With that in mind, Kent have named a 13-man squad for the game: Key (C), Denly, Northeast, Jones (W), van Jaarsveld, Stevens, Kemp, McLaren, Tredwell, Cook, Joseph, Khan, Hockley.

Hospital Radio Tunbridge Wells will provide ball-by-ball commentary of the game. You can access the commentary by clicking on the following link; www.hrtw.org.uk.

Picture courtesy of Getty Images.