Hello there, how are you? It’s Friday afternoon and we are back for the first time in three weeks. You can now stop panicking for no more will your Friday afternoons be empty. No more, I say!

The exact reason why your last two Fridays have not featured a ‘Canterbury Tales’ (as I’m sure the column is an integral part of everybody’s Friday routine) will be revealed shortly. But first, in the words of Alan Partridge, “boy or girl,” it’s good to be back!

An Apology…

While most editions of our weekly Kent County Cricket Club ramble start with the ‘closing statement’ of the previous week’s episode, we aren’t going to do that this week. Mainly because our last edition was all the way back on Friday 23 November!

“Why?” you’re anxiously asking yourself and wondering what I’m going to reveal? It was due to an urgent medical situation in Canterbury! Well, 13.4 miles south-west in the village I live. I had the flu. Yes it was awful. Yes it ate up the best part of two weeks of my life, but let’s get over it now. I’m better and this has absolutely zero to do with cricket!

Catching Up

So, 21 days without hearing from me means we have some catching up to do. Albeit it has been what is arguably one of the quietest three-week spells that we experience in the cricketing calendar.

At the end of the latest ‘Canterbury Tales,’ Kent star man Joe Denly’s tour of Sri Lanka with England still hadn’t finished yet and now he has flown back home, rested for a short while and has arrived on his next winter adventure, which we’ll touch on more a little later.

That’s a measure of the time that has passed. Bleak November has turned into bleak December, although we are now halfway into the month that carries the greatest holiday of them all. No, not Christmas, my birthday six days later. That hint ensures you’ll never forget it!

And in this time, three main bits of news have come out of the glorious Spitfire Ground St Lawrence (I passed it on a bus the other day, glorious is not the word I would have used, all battered by the winter conditions and feeling sorry for itself. God, I just wanted to give it a big hug).

However, enough of my twisted affections for my favourite sports grounds and more about this news that I’m sure you didn’t miss (I basically did whilst hiding under the covers trembling in my flu state). But I’m going to briefly tell you anyway.

The first was the announcement of the fixtures for the 2019 season. Gosh the excitement! And for once, I’m not being sarcastic as we edge closer and closer to it getting underway in just 112 days (16 weeks). What, no, who said that? I’m not counting, you’re counting! It all commences for my beloved county on Friday 5 April away at Somerset, five days after the friendly with Loughborough MCCU in Canterbury, in a Specsavers County Championship Division One clash. I’ve still not got used to saying or typing rather, “Division One.”

But we have to wait all the way until Wednesday 17 April at 2pm for the first competitive home match. The visit of Hampshire in the Royal London One-Day Cup. I NEED to take that day off… if you don’t reply to this column, Chris Darwen, I’ll take that as a “yes.”

Anyway, the season finishes with a tricky home encounter at the Spitfire Ground in the County Championship with Hampshire again. Will we be fighting for the title or to stay in the division come late September 2019?

More Nuggets Of Gold

The second nugget of news involved another Kent player putting pen to paper on a new and improved deal after ten years at the club. A limited-overs specialist batter integral to our success in the shorter form. Drum roll, please…

Yes, that’s right. It was of course Alex Blake, who signed on the dotted line of a contract extension which will keep him in Kent until after the 2020 season. Which is nice. However, it’s still a shame he can never really cut it in the longer and far superior form of the game.

The last bit of news, and I well and truly have saved the worse until last on this occasion, was some unexpected and disappointing news which was delivered by this mysterious statement on the club’s official Twitter account early in the month.

Ben Green, the man who did a terrific job as stand-in CEO for the hugely successful 2018 season, one that will go down in Kent history, has left the county after the appointment of Simon Storey in the permanent role. Green had been moved to another role in the club, but it’s a shame, that.

He’ll Be Back…

Before we get too political, let’s move on from what has happened and live in the present, focussing on what is happening. Oh, go on then, just one more story from the last few days!

How could I leave this one out? After tracking his progress on a frustrating England tour of Sri Lanka for my beloved Denly, recently named the 21st best 20-over player in the world, he’ll be back as the main focus of this column in the first two months of 2019.

The man who’s currently Down Under preparing for a second Big Bash campaign with the Sydney Sixers has been picked in both the Three Lions’ limited overs and Test squads for the tour of the West Indies in early 2019; which starts in mid-January.

This means that we get to do it all over again in January and February and I for one cannot wait! Hopefully this time, Denly will get a thoroughly deserved England Test debut and first ODI appearance since 2010. Though, that’s all in the future. But bear this omen in mind, the last Kent player to play Test cricket for England was James Tredwell in 2015. Guess where? The West Indies. Spooky!

How’ve They All Been Doing?

I think we’ve just about got time to find out how they’ve all been doing? I am, of course, referring to the band of Kent stars playing overseas cricket across the world in this close-season.

Well, where do we start? How about with old-timer Darren Stevens enjoying his time playing in the lower leagues of South Africa for the winter? Or Zak Crawley impressing at a similar standard in Australia?

Batsman Daniel Bell-Drummond is also Down Under, with Heino Kuhn featuring in the 20-over tournament of his home nation South Africa. Consequently Kent’s Twitter handily reminding us to watch him every time he’s on..

We finish this mini-roundup with Kent skipper Sam Billings, who’s sampling a bit of everything over the next few months. Including turning out for England Lions and playing in nations such as the UAE and India.

But it’s his spell in the Emirates playing in the T10 competition that we’re going to touch on as Billings captained Bengal Tigers to third place out of the eight teams. A respectable effort from the Kent lad and his men, one of which was England’s Jason Roy.

Cricket At Christmas?

Before we go, as we all know, unless there is something ridiculously exciting like an Ashes tour of Australia occurring, the festive season can be a dull, lonely and strange time for the cricket fan.

However, never fear as we will continue to be with you throughout the winter every Friday afternoon possible here on HFAL. And there will be plenty to cover, including more Kent stars overseas, international Kent stars and the pre-season. Keep on joining us!

Until Next Time…

Well, that’s about it for this bumper comeback edition of ‘Canterbury Tales,’ I hope that you didn’t miss me too much while I was gone, but all I can say is sorry. Your weekly dosage of Kent CCC is back now and we’ll see you again next Friday for the last edition before Christmas!

Until next time…