There was a great sense of occasion and expectation at the Spitfire Ground yesterday as Kent Spitfires hosted Gloucestershire… (well, I don’t think they have a cool T20 name) hoping to extend their lead at the top of the Vitality Blast South Group.
However high expectations the Kent fans might have, on the field, Sam Billings and his team fell flat on their faces. Falling victim to a disappointing and convincing eight-wicket defeat.
The truth is, the Spitfires, despite being the overwhelming favourites at the start of the afternoon, were never, ever going to win that cricket match. The simple reason? Me and my girlfriend were in attendance.
Walking Under A Ladder
Kentshire (as the drunken men who seem to follow the team everywhere always call us) have been on fire. Well, by Kent standards anyway in all three formats of the ‘real beautiful game.’
In its purest form, the Specsavers County Championship, my county are battling for promotion from Division Two, having been somewhat robbed of it recently by silly ECB decision making. Which we can leave for another article. We are currently third although have been second for most of the season.
In the Royal London One-Day Cup, Kent reached the final, only to be beaten by Hampshire at Lord’s, a match I was also at with my partner, which we will sink our teeth into later. And of course in the most popular form of cricket, the 20-over format, we were leading our Group, however fell to second after yesterday’s home defeat but remaining in front of Gloucestershire on net run-rate.
You can forget all of this good form, because it doesn’t mean anything. For each time that myself and my cricket rookie of a girlfriend have attended a match (one in every format), we have been treated to a vintage Kent performance.
Number Of The Beast
By vintage performance, I of course mean the kind of shabby and disastrous display that I grew up watching from my adopted county (I was actually born in Essex). A display that can only result in resounding loss.
You would think that the presence of my girlfriend (Kent through and through) would act as a good omen for the club. But no, as you will find out, this couldn’t be further from the case.
The Scottish Play
Our first game of the summer was the aforementioned Lord’s final; Kent’s first in over ten years. A marvellous though poorly-attended occasion, in my view. Well, until I got home and found out that it was the highest-attended One Day Cup final in a number of years. Guess I was just surprised we managed to get second-row tickets less than 48 hours before the first ball.
Anyway, we’re getting side-tracked. You would have thought that Hampshire, a team Kent are used to playing and beating, would be a walk in the park. But what do you know? For me, we were the better team and the favourites.
After all, Kent had defeated, away from home the high-quality of Nottinghamshire and Worcestershire in the quarters and semis. Sides they rarely face in the shorter form of the game.
It wasn’t meant to be as the opposing county smashed 330 in the first innings, following captain Billings’ bizarre decision to bowl first. Kent were skittled out for 269 in reply after literally being run-out of the game.
Breaking A Mirror
Next, after the glam of the Lord’s final, I thought it would be best to give her a taste of cricket in its greatest form. A four-day County Championship affair. So I did, regrettably.
At a sun-soaked Spitfire ground in late July, Kent hosted Leicestershire. I must say the Spitfire Ground may be the only cricket ground in England with naming rights that haven’t completely destroyed its character and charm. The name and sponsor fit perfectly; even if the old St Lawrence Ground is being eaten up by housing from all angles.
The less said about this game, the better as Kent were pulverised in being bowled out for 104. We ended up losing the entire match at the end of the second day, by 10 wickets.
Third Time A Charm?
‘Third time lucky,’ I thought as I pre-ordered our tickets for Sunday’s T20 in Canterbury some weeks before. ‘What with how well we are playing, surely, we won’t see another demoralising loss.’ Was exactly what crossed my mind.
There is a theme here, once more. I was calamitously incorrect. ‘Sorry Kent,’ hadn’t lost a god-damn Vitality Blast affair in almost a month, having been defeated by Gloucestershire away from home in early July. However it mattered little as we had attended.
Getting there to secure seats over an hour early didn’t pay off and we are still yet to see the Spitfires win in over two years, in the flesh anyway.
Every Day Is Friday 13th
Once again Billings, don’t get me wrong, an amazing cricketer and bright prospect but just not captain material, opted to bat first. Despite it working so well for Kent over the last few weeks, we could only post 160. Albeit we did win by 50-odd runs against Hampshire on Friday after only making 139.
Joe Denly, come on England selectors, top-scored with an agonising yet sensational 99, hitting a four off the last ball when he needed a six, that gave us some hope and a big positive from the rather average score.
Looking back, fellow high-flyers Gloucestershire were always in control of the game. Although they did win in the final over, it was more like a cat playing with a mouse for a bit before killing it. A mere formality which they simply prolonged. Ian Cockbain hit the winning runs from the second ball of the 20th and that was that.
If you’re reading this, Kent head coach Matt Walker or skipper Sam Billings, you will be pleased to know that my partner and I have no plans to attend any more Kent matches this summer.
Unless we qualify for a home Vitality Blast quarter-final but even then, I do want us to get to Finals Day…