Match Preview: Kent v South Africans, St Lawrence Ground

Thursday 12th July 2012

Men’s First Team

Tour Match

Match Preview: Kent v South Africans, St Lawrence Ground

Kent v South Africa Tour Match, St Lawrence Ground, Canterbury, July 13 – 15 2012

Kent fans are set to be treated this weekend when South Africa, the second highest ranked Test match nation, come to town to take on the ‘locals’ in a three-day tour match at the St Lawrence Ground, starting tomorrow.

Ahead of their eagerly awaited Test match battle with England, starting next Thursday at the Kia Oval, Graeme Smith’s men are cranking up their preparations and look set to field a strong side at Canterbury. South Africa boosts one of, if not, the most potent bowling attacks in world cricket with speedsters Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander taking their place in a formidable line-up.

Their batting line-up looks impressive too with captain Smith opening up, followed by one of the greatest players of all-time – Jacques Kallis. The right-hander has made over 12,000 Test match runs and shows no signs of cooling off. Hashim Amla slots in between the two heavyweights at number three, he has a Test average of nearly 47. Another superstar, AB de Villiers, completes the star-studded batting line-up. His average touches on fifty with a Test high score of 278.

Sadly, veteran wicketkeeper Mark Boucher had to announce his retirement earlier this week after suffering a serious eye injury against Somerset. The gloveman was hit by a bail after spinner Imran Tahir had bowled Somerset’s Gemaal Hussain. He immediately returned to his native country for surgery and the news of his international retirement followed soon after. All at Kent County Cricket Club would like to wish Mark a speedy recovery and all the very best for the future. Boucher finishes with 999 international victims, to his name, and he averaged over thirty with the bat in Test cricket. His replacement is Thami Tsolekile, but coach Gary Kirsten has implied that de Villiers will take the gloves for the first Test match – Kent fans could see him get some practice at Canterbury first.

South Africa’s two-day fixture against Somerset, at Taunton, inevitably ended in a draw as the sides dodged the weather to get a decent game in. The hosts batted first and posted 312 for eight declared, thanks largely to centurions James Hildreth and Peter Trego. The duo added 183 for the fifth wicket with former Kent all-rounder Trego blasting 104 off just 63 balls; the innings included six consecutive fours off a Morkel over. Back-up quick Lonwabo Tsotsobe took three wickets for the tourists. In reply South Africa made 282 for nine with Amla and JP Duminy posting half-centuries, openers Smith and Jacques Rudolph fell for just ten and five respectively. With 22 overs left in the fixture, Somerset batted again and reached 50 for one, with Philander claiming the only wicket to fall, against the county he impressed playing for earlier this summer.

Last season the St Lawrence faithful witnessed a thrilling tour match against the Indians and, despite the longer format this time around, fans will be hoping for an equally exciting encounter. That day a century from Kent opener Joe Denly wasn’t enough for the hosts as the touring Indian side edged a rain-affected thriller. A bumper crowd had to be patient with the rain but once the two sides kicked off a t20 encounter they were treated to an enthralling clash, which saw Munaf Patel keep his cool in the final over to seal a slender five-run win for the ODI World Champions.

Reduced from fifty overs, the usual t20 laws applied as MS Dhoni’s side were invited to bat first in damp conditions. David Balcombe got the hosts off to a flying start, when he had Pathiv caught behind for one off the third ball of the match. Fellow opener, and former Kent favourite, Rahul Dravid fared better, scoring 15, before he pulled Adam Ball to James Tredwell at short mid-wicket. The wicket brought Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma together, at the crease, and the duo instantly showed their international class. Kohli dominated the quick-fire stand of 69. His 53-ball 78 pulled India back into the game. Off-spinner Adam Riley bowled Sharma for 30 and Kohli was then run-out soon after. England spinner James Tredwell quickly accounted for danger men Dhoni and Suresh Raina before some late hitting from R Ashwin (23 from 12-balls) boosted the tourists up to 164 for six.

The Kent chase begun brightly with Daniel Bell-Drummond showing youthful exuberance, hitting a four and a six before he was bowled by RP Singh for 11. Denly and Martin van Jaarsveld (17) kept the momentum going, adding 60 for the second wicket, and then the centurion dominated a 73-run stand to make the hosts favourites. Denly completed his deserved 68-ball ton, which included eight boundaries and two sixes, with a hard run two off, a free hit, before he was bowled by Singh, in the penultimate over, with Kent requiring nine runs to win.

With Stevens and Sam Northeast at the crease, the home side remained favourites but Patel used all his skill in the final over to restrict the batsmen and with six needed to win off the last ball, the pace bowler yorked Stevens to seal a thrilling win for the Indians.

Kent themselves will be looking to use the tour match as a warm-up for their return to LV= County Championship cricket. After their FL t20 excursions, Rob Key’s men return to four-day action next Thursday, when they welcome Glamorgan to Canterbury. With promotion to division one high on the agenda, Kent will be looking for a strong end to the season and they couldn’t have hoped for a better warm-up – a date with the South Africans.

Team news: Kent will be led by Sam Northeast, as the batsman captains a side full of talent. Fans will get the chance to see dashing opener Daniel Bell-Drummond in action alongside Sam Billings, who impressed so much in the recent FL t20 tournament. Billings will also take up the wicket-keeping duties from Geraint Jones who is rested. Other championship specialists, Ben Harmison, Michael Powell, Matt Coles and Charlie Shreck all return to the starting XI as Kent field a strong side. Bowlers Ivan Thomas and Adam Riley are also given the chance to impress.

Kent: Sam Northeast (captain), Daniel Bell-Drummond, Ben Harmison, Michael Powell, Alex Blake

Sam Billings, Matt Coles, Simon Cook, Adam Riley, Ivan Thomas, Charlie Shreck.

South Africa have two injury worries ahead of the game. Opening batsman Alviro Petersen is carrying a foot injury but is likely to play to prove his fitness, ahead of the first Test match at the Kia Oval next week, where he could take his place at the top of the order alongside Graeme Smith. Marchant de Lange is the other fitness doubt; the quick bowler is struggling with a back problem. However, he is only likely to make the team for first Test-match if one of the front-line seamers pulls out through injury.