TW100 Match Preview: Kent v Hampshire LV= CC, 6th to 9th June

Friday 1st June 2012

Men’s First Team

Kent v Hampshire, LV= County Championship Division Two

Nevill Ground, Tunbridge Wells, 6th– 9th June 2012

Tunbridge Wells Cricket Festival is here, and Kent’s cricketers will look to entertain the vast Royal Spa Town crowds once more, after a fine start to the season.This is a special year for Tunbridge Wells Cricket Week, as it is the 100th festival week staged at The Nevill Ground. This match therefore takes on an added significance.

Hampshire are first up for Rob Key’s side and the Rose Bowl outfit will provide tough opposition. Northants Steelbacks and Sussex Sharks then follow, in CB40 and FL t20 respectively, during the West Kent festival week. First of all though, the four-day action takes precedence with both sides looking to maintain their respective promotion pushes to division one.

Kent will be buoyed by their demolition of Leicestershire at Canterbury last week. The innings and 279 run win, collecting 22 points to boot, was a clinical display by the hosts as they stretched this season’s unbeaten run to seven games in the LV= CC. On a decent batting wicket, the visitors won the toss and quite rightly took first use but they were soon routed; inside 54 overs. Seamer Charlie Shreck ripped out the top-order, claiming three victims in eleven balls, before the ever improving Matt Coles scythed through the rest – returning 5-41 as Leicestershire were dismissed for just 141.

The home side then set about ensuring they only needed to bat once in the game by grinding out 533, in nearly 173 overs, to portray a mature batting effort. Despite losing Sam Northeast off the first ball of the innings, Key, Brendan Nash and James Tredwell all hit healthy half-centuries to provide fine support to Michael Powell. The former Glamorgan batsman sweetly struck his second century, since his winter move from the Welsh county, to put his team is a commanding position. Second time around, Leicestershire batted much like they did in their first innings and the game was quickly over on the third evening. Medium-pacer Darren Stevens picked up four wickets, against his former employers, and Tredwell completed a fine all-round display – returning 3-38 as the visitors slumped to 113 all-out with Kent recording a truly comprehensive win.

Hampshire, in their previous championship outing, were also victorious – albeit in less comfortable fashion. Glamorgan were the visitors to the Rose Bowl but it was the home side who posted 316 batting first. Sean Ervine was the star of the innings, scoring an unbeaten 109, as he and former Kent-loanee David Balcombe (39) added 85 for the last wicket to claim valuable extra bonus points.

Balcombe then shone with the ball, claiming 4-91, as Glamorgan took a slender 11 run lead into the second innings. James Tomlinson chipped in with three wickets as half centuries from William Bragg and Marcus North powered the innings.

Hampshire captain Jimmy Adams then led the way in setting the visitors a tough victory target. His 72, complimented by 48 from James Vince, saw Hampshire up to 273 in their second innings – leaving Glamorgan requiring 263 to win. Despite another half-century from Australian North, the visitors came up just short as three wickets apiece for Tomlinson and Kabir Ali saw Adams’ side through to a tight 31 run win.

Promotion is high on the agenda for both counties making Wednesday’s clash a crucial one for everyone involved. Kent will be looking for a better result from the last time Hampshire visited the Garden of England, for four-day cricket, back in 2010.

The division one clash proved to be a one-sided affair as the visitors ran out 130 run winners at the St Lawrence Ground, during a season where Kent unfortunately suffered relegation to the second tier.

Things did look promising initially for the hosts when they skittled Hampshire out for 204 on day one with Sri Lankan leg-spinner Malinga Bandara claiming 4-42 to put a smile on the face of the Kent supporters. However, in keeping with much of the 2010 campaign, the hosts struggled to dominate with the bat and could only muster 182 in reply with Joe Denly and Martin van Jaarsveld the only batsmen making it into the forties.

Setting a target, a solid, collective batting display saw former Kent-man Michael Carberry, Adams, Vince and Liam Dawson all post half-centuries as Hampshire declared on 355 for nine. Bandara added four more wickets to his first innings haul but Kent were set a daunting 378 to win.

Northeast made 71 and Alex Blake contributed a sprightly 46 but four wickets apiece for veteran Dominic Cork and spinner Danny Briggs ensured the home side came up short.

Team news

With opening batsman Scott Newman returning to parent club Middlesex, following the expiry of his loan-spell, Sam Northeastmay beset for an extended run at the top of the order alongside Rob Key. This means head coach Jimmy Adams may name an unchangedorvery similar side to that whichbrushed aside Leicestershire – despite all-rounder Azhar Mahmood returning from IPL duty. With no further injuries to report, Ash Shaw remains the only absentee as he continues to recover from shin surgery.

For Hampshire, David Balcombe returns to the county where he impressed so much on loan last season. The fast-bowler took 33 championship wickets, including four five-wicket hauls, at an average of 17.81 during his spell with Kent. His heroics prompted Hampshire to hand him a new three-year deal during the winter. Their overseas star is former Australian Test-match batsman Simon Katich, he bats at number four, while former captain Dimitri Mascarenhas is available again having played alongside Azhar for the Kings XI Punjab in the IPL.

Can there be anything more precious in the county cricket calendar than the festival cricket weeks? Marquees, hospitality packages, large crowds, beer tents, champagne and a special intimacy between players and spectators – hopefully in gloriously sunny conditions in a scenic setting – make any cricket week an event to savour. Kent Cricket is fortunate to have not just this widely-anticipated festival in its schedule but also the original cricket week of them all, the 170-year-old Canterbury Week that is traditionally held at the St Lawrence Ground in early August.

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