Bonjour, or as we say down here in Kent, “good afternoon, how are you today?” After two weeks, I’m back, telling some more Canterbury Tales. Apologies if you missed me last week.
Plenty has happened in the world of Kent Cricket Club since the last Canterbury Tales. The biggest news being the Spitfires secured qualification to the quarter-finals of the Vitality Blast!
Seriously, that’s just about the most exciting thing that has happened in this county since, well, the last time that our Kentish side made it this far in the 20-over competition, in 2015.
Ironically, the opponents back then were Lancashire after Kent topped the South Group. It was a highly-controversial affair at the Spitfire Ground, with both teams making 142 from their innings. The match was decided by wickets lost with the Red Roses coming out on top after losing six and of course, Kent had been bowled out with the final delivery of the 20 overs. No super over, no nothing.
There is always a little rumour that goes around that some of us Spitfires are still bitter about that day in Canterbury. But the truth is… all of us are! We all desperately want revenge this time around. The only difference three years later is that Kent finished second in the South Group, instead of first. And the Lancs (can I call them that? Well, I am), finished a place better in third, in North Group.
Sam Billings’ side have also been in Specsavers County Championship action as the ECB looked to crowbar a game in for each county between the groups and knockouts of the Blast.
Anyone who knows me will know that the County Championship is my favourite format of the game by some distance but it will have to wait until the end of this piece as we are going to touch back on T20, first.
When I penned the latest and first-ever edition of Canterbury Tales, the Spits had just been defeated by Gloucestershire at Canterbury, in what was probably my last game of the summer.
If you read my first column, you will know that this is probably an amazing thing for the county’s shot at silverware. Anyway, the loss saw us plummet to third in the South Group, placing an unwanted question mark over our qualification chances.
The Bloody Weather
At that stage, Matt Walker’s side still had four matches left. Trips to rivals Sussex and Essex, alongside visits of Middlesex and group-topping Somerset to Beckenham and Canterbury. Incredibly, only one of these was abandoned due to the weather. And yes incredibly, Kent have enjoyed the joint-most postponed 20 over games in the competition this summer. With four.
Yes, in one of the hottest English summers on record, Sussex were the only other side with the same number of “no-results.” Unsurprisingly, it would be the game at Hove that was a complete wash-out.
Through somewhat back luck, we were now fourth and staring an early exit right in the face with three matches remaining. Typical Kent, getting the hopes up and dashing them before our very eyes. Just like the time we got to Lord’s earlier in the summer. Or the time we finished second in Division Two but didn’t even get promoted. Even when an extra team was kicked out of Division One for going into Administration!
Scandalous, absolutely scandalous, I say. But as I touched on earlier, we don’t hold grudges or remember much down here in the very South East corner of England.
However, a typical Kentish collapse and non-qualification wasn’t to be. We made it a hat-trick of victories and reached the 20-point mark. Level on points with group-winners Somerset.
In all seriousness, it is shaping up to be a very, very exciting summer for cricket in Kent. I mean, we did reach our first Lord’s final in over ten years in June and contended, at least. Coach Walker and captain Billings have been working wonders and this was evident in the first of those three wins. The nail-biting scalp of Middlesex, 10 days ago.
The match was held at Beckenham. You know, one of those awful, tiny, depressing grounds that your county randomly plays on a few times a season. It’s in north Kent. A whole 45 minutes away from me! I hate it.
But, I didn’t hate the result. A quick-fire Alex Blake 50 ensuring Kent came back from behind to successfully chase down a total of 190 that the men in pink had set.
The final two affairs both involved the counties on show smashing over 200 in their 20-overs, which is always thrilling to see. Especially when the Spitfires’ batting has been many moons from their bowling over the summer.
First, we ended Somerset’s seven-game win streak by setting them over 230 to chase down, our joint-record total in this format. In true Kentish style, they almost did and we scraped a five-run victory. A clue; all of these matches went right down to the wire.
This stunning Sprite Ground triumph secured qualification and one night later, we didn’t even have to win when we travelled to bitter rivals Essex, to score a home last-eight tie.
We did anyway though, which was nice and, in some style. Successfully chasing 202 with the penultimate delivery of the match and doing the double over the Eagles in the encounter named “The Battle of the Bridge.” Due to the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge that separates the two counties.
So that was that in terms of the South Group and it all set up tomorrow night’s big match, which I am unable to attend to the great relief of a county.
No bad karma on Thursday boys and girls.
Sweet, Sweet Four-Day Format
As promised, I will briefly touch on the Country Championship clash away to Leicester before I have to say goodbye for another week.
The best way to prepare for revenge is with revenge. This is exactly what we have done, making up for a heavy defeat to the lads from Leicester at home in July, by defeating them by eight wickets at New Road. A pair of South Africans getting us over the line in a 253-run chase.
Heino Kuhn, finally actually scoring some longer-form runs and 26-year-old little-known Sean Dickson with a century. Hey, we might actually get promoted to Division One this summer! We are second now!
Come On Boys!
However, we will be able to focus on that more after the Vitality Blast has concluded. That is the main focus, for now. Eleven years after last winning the thrilling competition, could it be our year again?
Go get them tomorrow night Billings and co. We can do this, we are Kent and we are not destined to fail, whatsoever! We never fail, or is it that we always fail? Anyway, no failure! Just bring home that Finals Day spot!