Good afternoon, how are you? Did you miss me last week? Well, I’m back to bring you the latest edition of Canterbury Tales. So read on and we can catch up with everything that has been happening down here in Kent over the last two weeks.
I apologise for not being able to bring you a Canterbury Tales last Wednesday, but promise that I will make it up to all of you; The good readers of ‘HFAL’ today.
Stevo Carries On…
We are going to be covering a very exciting couple of weeks for Kent County Cricket Club on the pitch. And looking ahead to what could be a thrilling end to the month and the season. However, first, we must touch on two huge bits of news to have come out of Canterbury over the last seven days. Both involving living legends of my beloved ‘Kentshire.’
We’ll go in chronological order and start with the first. Treasured all-rounder Darren Stevens, a man only Kent fans seem to love, (understandably really) has signed a one-year contract extension. The 42-year-old is often marked as a cult hero of the Spitfire Ground. But he is so much more than that and will be remembered as an icon in the future. Naturally, this is hugely exciting news.
Despite his ripe old age, the last few weeks have revealed that Stevens can still rack up the runs. And more predominantly, take the wickets. One of the reasons that supporters of other countries fear him so much. His tricky medium-pace bowling and pinch-hitting can be deadly. If the personal favourite of mine, who lives just a few streets away from myself and whose door I used to regularly knock at in search or autographs and merchandise, can stay fit, he is as valuable as any in that Kent unit.
But Tredders Retires
From one man who has, perhaps, been fortunate with injuries over the years to another man who really hasn’t. James Tredwell; whose retirement at the age of 36, was announced by the club this week. ‘Tredders’ can go down as one of the finest to have ever played for the county. Also racking up well over 50 appearances for England, across all three forms of the game.
The former off-spinner and handy tailend batsman made his debut in 2000 and has taken a stunning 830 Kent wickets. He is another that I’ve met a few times and once more, a charming gentleman.
Tredwell, who hails from one of my local clubs, Folkestone Cricket Club, hasn’t played any first-team cricket this summer. Due to undergoing shoulder surgery. Consequently it is that very injury that has forced him to call stumps on a wonderful career.
Tredwell has hinted that he will look to stay in the game that he loves, in the future. Whether that be in a coaching or an umpiring role, but there is little doubting that he will be missed dearly at Canterbury. As for Stevens, the old-timer and fan favourite just keeps going and going.
So, now that we have the current and rather emotional stuff out of the way, I should also mention that we have signed fast bowler Matt Milnes from Nottinghamshire. Though, we can touch more on him when he makes the trip to the South East next summer.
It’s now time to briefly catch up on all the action that has occurred on the fine pitches of the County Championship Division Two in the last two weeks. As we continued our push for promotion to Division One.
When you last heard from me, second-placed Kent had just contested day one of a key clash with Northamptonshire at Canterbury. Being bowled out for 137, before reducing the visitors to 70-8. Northants would manage to put on a further 35 runs and were bowled out for 105. Overseas star and the leading wicket-taker for the whole of the County Championship Matt Henry instrumental, once more.
In reply, we would manage to string some runs together. Getting up to 287 with England hopeful Joe Denly, who we will touch on in more detail later on, and skipper Sam Billings top-scoring.
This set Northamptonshire a seemingly unreachable victory target of 320. They battled away on the final day at the Spitfire Ground. Yet were unable to get within 100 runs and lost their ten wickets for 217. Handing my beloved Kent a 104-run triumph.
Still Not There Yet…
Whilst this was another huge step towards promotion and left us second ahead of Sussex, once again, there was little time to rest as the game ended on the Friday and a trip to Lord’s beckoned on the Monday. Returning to the site of our painful Royal London One-Day Cup final defeat to Hampshire. The match wouldn’t go the fourth day like the last one, however it would be tight.
Things would be decided on day three after good weather in the capital. We were able to skittle the hosts out for 161 in the first innings. Stevo, fresh from signing his new contract, doing most of the damage.
However, we could only get up to 191. Bowling well again in the second innings to get them for 186 and setting ourselves a winning target of 156. No sure thing on a pitch and in conditions that favoured bowling.
Losing wickets periodically right until the last, as I bit my nails, worked and listened to BBC Radio London, we hobbled over the line with captain Billings at the crease. Winning by three wickets and opening up a lead of over 20 points over neighbours Sussex. After they somehow lost at strugglers Durham!
Will We Actually Do It?
And this is where we find ourselves. On this grey Wednesday in Kent, wondering will we do it? Ahead of day two of our decisive Championship game and final home match of the season.
Last week’s Middlesex win gave us the opportunity of gaining promotion a game early. We have to better the result of Sussex, who face leaders Warwickshire at Hove, and are struggling after the first day. In theory, we could draw and still get promoted this week, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet. However, the signs are looking very good indeed, in the wake of day one at the Spitfire Ground.
Glamorgan, bottom of the table and well adrift, won the toss and rather foolishly, chose to bat on a windy Canterbury day. Falling victim to the likes of aforementioned Henry and Stevens. On their way to being bowled out for the familiar 186 figure.
At the time of writing, pre-day two, we are cruising along at 93-2 in reply. Youngster and opener Zak Crawley not out just shy of 60 and night-watchman Harry Podmore on nought.
Come on Kent! I smell maximum bowling and batting points!
Wil We Actually Do It All?
I mentioned not getting ahead of myself earlier. But this is exactly what I’m about to do, by talking briefly about the scenario that could see Kent crowned Division Two champions.
While most of the country cheer on leaders Warwickshire as they take on third-place Sussex, some of my fellow Kent followers are hoping that the home team will taste victory. Giving Kent a better chance of winning the title in the final match, against Warwickshire.
If Kent and Sussex both win, my beloved county could still have promotion in the bag before next week. Although it’s unlikely, but it will also mean that the Midlander’s haven’t made sure of anything yet themselves.
This opens the door for Kent to beat them in the final match at Edgbaston to steal the title. Personally, I think those fans are being greedy and I would rather see things wrapped up this week. However, the thought of Billings and Matt Walker holding that trophy aloft is a particularly dreamy one.
We Need To Talk About Joe
Before we finish, I feel I should make a very quick note on another of my Kent favourites, Denly. After he topped the MVP rankings for the Vitality Blast. Having done the very same for the One-Day Cup, earlier in the season.
It seems that my prayers could well be answered after mentioning them in this column for weeks. As there are now very strong rumours that Denly will be touring with England for the first time in Sri Lanka. I don’t want to jinx him, so I’m going to end right here. He has continued to impress in recent matches though. All I can say is go get ‘em, Joe!
Until Next Time
Unfortunately, and it’s always a teary moment, it’s now time to say goodbye for another week. Thus concluding the latest edition of Canterbury Tales, with Kent on the very cusp of achieving promotion to the promised land of County Championship Division One. For the first time in eight years.
Who knows what delights we will be celebrating in next week’s column? Will the mighty Kent close out victory against Glamorgan and confirm things? Or, will we be in the middle of a nervy must-win encounter in Birmingham? Or will we simply be playing for the title, without an inch of pressure in the world? Join us next Wednesday, to find out.