Good afternoon, how are you? Have you got the Friday Feeling? I know I have, as I’m here to bring you the latest edition of Canterbury Tales, in its brand-new Friday slot.
With the season now well and truly over, the prying eyes of the cricketing world turn to England’s winter tour to Sri Lanka. Where we will be following the progress of our very own Joe Denly. Until then though, we have decided to do something a bit different this week.
For the first time on Canterbury Tales, we will be carrying out a Kent Season Review. Looking back at the county’s campaign, month-by-month, over two parts, this week and next week.
It’s going to be one hell of a ride, trawling back over what has been a wonderful summer if you’re a Kent fan. Through limited-overs heartbreak and promotion glory. Join us and don’t look back, or do look back? God, I don’t know, just enjoy.
As the clock ticked over into another year (2018), down here in Kent, attention quickly turned to the new cricket season. For my beloved county were already looking to build on a mundane 2017 campaign. However, before the serious stuff could begin, an early-season test of where the squad was, amid the off-field issues that led to captain Sam Northeast’s departure, was to take place.
With Sam Billings installed as the new captain and Northeast on his way out, Kent travelled to the West Indies on the ‘FSG Plant Tour’ to compete in the Regional Super 50.
Playing against bizarre teams such as Guyana and the USA, we faired reasonably well. Getting to the semi-finals, only to be knocked out by Barbados by 13 runs on D/L method. Once we returned to England, it was business time and all eyes on the start of the domestic campaign.
In terms of recruitment, it was a busy pre-season for ‘Kentshire,’ with plenty of players coming in and one notable outgoing. The aforementioned skipper Northeast, to fellow south coasters Hampshire.
Many Kent fans, myself included were sad to see him go. Mainly because he was one of the few sportsmen I had seen in the flesh away from the sporting arena. Having seen him shopping for breadsticks in Sainsbury’s about five years ago!
However, to soften the blow, there was an influx of Internationals coming to Kent. The soon-to-be-heralded Heino Kuhn and Matt Henry leading them, as the only two to be able to play in more than one format.
They would later be followed by three players drafted in for Vitality Blast duty. West Indies T20 captain Carlos Brathwaite, Aussie all-rounder Marcus Stoinis and New Zealand bowler Adam Milne. Harry Podmore from Middlesex was also added to the squad; ‘whoa Poddy, Poddy.’
An April Shower
With the scene now set and everything in place for the start of the season (apart from captain Billings, who was away on IPL duty with Denly standing in), proceedings got underway in mid-May. After a largely underwhelming Specsavers County Championship Division Two challenge last season, there was hope and expectancy in the air at the Spitfire Ground. First up was the visit of Gloucestershire.
That hope and expectancy quickly evaporated at the Spitfire Ground. Kent were skittled out for just 64 in the first innings of the season. On the way to a dire five-wicket loss, comfortable for the away side.
Luckily for Kent, there was little time to sit around and moan ‘here we go again.’ Despite the amount supporters did, guilty as charged, before a trip all the way up to Durham. The journey is the longest that we would face in the County Championship all season-long. Not many were holding out hope. The game begun after we had chosen to bat, in the wake of an uncontested toss.
This would be a fantastic choice as we bowled the hosts out for just 91. And were able to remain in command for the whole match, as Henry took the first of three ten-wicket match hauls. Kent triumphed by nine wickets. A fantastic end to a mixed first month of the season.
May The Force Be With Us
The arrival of May saw the arrival of the second county competition of the campaign; the Royal London One-Day Cup. A tournament Kent had seen very limited success in, in recent times.
However, before the demanding schedule of the tournament could begin, Kent faced two County Championship clashes. A trip to Wales and a home encounter with local rivals Sussex, at Canterbury. Clearly confidence was flowing in the ranks as we came away with a pair of fairly comfortable victories. In which our bowling, the highpoint of the entire summer, had shone through, contributing to respective six-wicket and 58-run wins.
And then, the gruelling 50-over comp could get underway and in true Kent style, it did in miserable fashion. Two defeats in the space of three days at Sussex and Middlesex, were in the offing.
But then, much like in the four-day format, something clicked and we were off on an excellent and terribly exciting run. Closing out May with a hat-trick of home 50-over victories. Defeating Glamorgan, Hampshire and Somerset.
Sand-June’s & Sun Tan
The month of June would be an extremely busy one for everyone associated with Kent County Cricket Club. As drought set in across most of the county and we rose to the occasion to provide an excellent 30 days of cricket.
At the start of the month, there was to be little respite from the One-Day Cup. With a match on the first day of the month; the first in a run of three final group fixtures. Win them all and we would have an excellent chance of making a rare appearance in the knockout stages. Fall at the final hurdle, we would be facing another early exit, having finished bottom of our group last season.
As it turned out, we were able to taste victory in the first two, overcoming Surrey and Gloucestershire at Canterbury. Before being thrashed by bitter get-in-the-bin rivals Essex in the final game. But it was just enough to make it out of the South Group and into the quarter-finals!
Before the tough last-eight trip to Nottinghamshire, the ECB decided to cram in a County Championship affair. A not-so-welcomed Bristol journey, which ended in an uninspiring draw.
Before we knew it, we were back to the thrills and spills of 50-over cricket and a stunning nine-wicket triumph at Trent Bridge, which was followed by the thrilling two-wicket defeat of Worcestershire at New Road. You guessed it, we were off to our first Lord’s final in over ten years!
(A Brief Respite)
There was a welcome break of nearly two weeks between the semi and final. Time to carry on with the Division Two campaign and early promotion push.
We did this in some style when Warwickshire and Middlesex decided to pop down south. The former of those matches being played in Royal Tunbridge Wells at the Nevill Ground, and the latter being a day-night match. Still, we didn’t care, we won both convincingly.
This meant that we were in even better form heading to North London with just one loss in the whole month. Plus the return of captain Billings to the fold, after he got back from India.
Northeast and Hampshire were our opponents in the final. Which was the first of three games I attended all summer. Everything seemed to be going so well prior, this could only mean one thing… the inevitable loss in the final and a runners-up medal. It just wasn’t to be!
Until Next Time…
‘Wait, what? Why is he stopping here? Keep going, keep going,’ is what I know you’re all screaming at your various screens, but we must stop here for now, as June ends in Kent’s 2018 season.
Heading into the final three months of the season, we have enjoyed an excellent run in the One-Day Cup and are going very well in the County Championship. We will be back next week with part two. Will Kent taste the glory they so crave in the Blast? Can their promotion run continue. How will it all end? You’ll have to join us in part two to find out.
Or just Google it, your choice. Until next time.