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The White Horse Awakens

Today’s article comes courtesy of cricket poet Marco Jackson. He’s been following Kent over recent weekends and has spotted several signs suggesting something special’s brewing down south. Does that pass for an acceptable alliteration, Marco?

The following piece comes in two stages: a love letter to Kent in general, and then a tribute to Daniel Bell-Drummond, a player who has really caught Marco’s eye. Enjoy folks …

Kent

That team you can hear throwing pebbles at your window is Kent, and you should open up and let them in, because there’s a lot to love about Kent right now, and you’re missing out if you ignore them.

You miss out on New Zealand tyro Matt Henry, who has taken to both four day and one day cricket in England like nothing else, his zippy pace seemingly a step or two faster than anyone else on the field at any one time and his ability to bowl to a plan has been exemplary.

You miss out on Daniel Bell-Drummond, a porcelain-perfect player of shots at the top of the order; a batsman upon whom coaching manuals could be based, a gatherer of runs so accomplished and comfortable that he can make batting look like the easiest thing in the world. He swatted away Steven Finn repeated at Radlett as if the former England bowler were nothing more than a fly in his vision. Before he scores, though, he can be as brittle as the afore-mentioned porcelain. If you see him in form, savour it.

You miss out on Heino Kuhn, who is as punchy and belligerent as any South African batsman and seems to get his thrills on chasing so hard that one run becomes two, or two become three and can cut a ball so late that the keeper is almost still reaching to claim it as it clatters the boundary boards.

You miss out on Joe Denly, who has developed the skill of building an innings to such an extent that you might not even notice him scoring at all. His partnerships with Kuhn have been a huge factor in the upturn in fortunes for Kent. His spin bowling is simply a bonus, but a huge one.

You miss out on Imran Qayyum, attacking the crease like a woodpecker, jaggedly darting the ball at the batsmen, often in tandem with Denly, and working through his overs so quickly that ten can whip by in an instant.

You miss out on Alex Blake, not only a gymnast in the field but a batsman of huge quality, capable of putting any bowler on the back foot with a single swipe of his bat, and who can score at such a rate for such a time that no score is ever truly beyond him.

You miss out on Callum Haggett, who is persistent and accurate and reactionary, meaning that batsmen struggle to stay on top of him, even if his initial ideas don’t work out and his ability to come on and help his captain apply pressure, as Kent seem to be getting tighter and tighter, like they’re applying thumbscrews.

That’s not to mention the other delights that Kent have to offer; the bearing Mitchell Claydon, who might bowl with the ferocity that his look suggests, but who has improved his fielding no end over the course of the summer so far. The return of Sam Billings has brought an impetus to Kent in the field, and it is visible all over, be it in Sean Dickson, who has seen little action (nor needed to) with the bat recently, or Henry himself, who hurls himself all over the place in a way that a fast bowler will often be reluctant to do.

And above all of these, and amongst all of these, you miss out on the ageless, wondrous, ever-improving Darren Stevens. Every good team has a talismanic figure to rally around and this year, just like last year, Stevens is producing results that are simply staggering. His figures against Surrey – 6/25 – were his best ever one day figures. On a Beckenham pitch that gave up 300 runs easily, he went for just 43 against Gloucestershire as well for his ten overs. It is a special stage in a special career, and it is a delight to watch him perplex batsmen who seem to think they should do better but, quite simply, don’t.

This is a Kent side who are not barging their way into the Royal London Cup final stages, but improving, bit by bit, proving as they go that they can perform different aspects of games well, and succeeding along the way.

Against Surrey they exploded in a symphony of runs, which the Three Feathers couldn’t hope to chase. When Gloucestershire visited, wickets were hard to come by but energetic discipline and sticking to their plans ensured a reachable total, which was backed by sensible batting to guide them home. The victory against Hampshire was preposterous, with the Rose and Crown needing just four runs from Matt Henry’s final over. They could only make two, and Kent won by a single run.

I cannot say Kent are unbeatable, not least because I spent a somewhat painful afternoon watching Middlesex grind them into whatever passes for dust at Radlett; the life gradually ebbing away from the visitors, wicket after interminable wicket.

But they have something; and perhaps an advantage in their stability. There are no big stars waiting in the wings, no England players to come back in to ruin the balance of the team should they make the knock out stages, just the same blokes with the same smiles on their faces and the same roles they’ve had all season.

Yes, the feel good factor is back in Kent; you can feel it from Dover to Dartford, and can see it from Canterbury to Beckenham. The team nobody expected to do anything are doing something, and doing it well, and they deserve to be appreciated for it.

The White Horse is rampant again and the scent of the 1970s is in the air of the Garden of England.

Daniel Bell-Drummond

One of the reasons I wanted to see Kent this year was because of Daniel Bell-Drummond. I’d seen flashes of his abity last year, but not a full innings, not the true extent of his ability.
First home Championship game was against Gloucestershire at Canterbury and I was there on the Saturday as Kent came in to bat after taking the last couple of Gloucester wickets pretty cheaply. It was clearly a pretty lively pitch, but Bell-Drummond played as though it were a lawn.
His driving was picture postcard perfect and some of the balls he guided through behind him were quite breath-taking. The punch down the ground that took him to fifty couldn’t have been better judged had he used a protractor; in short, it was cricket for the ages.
I watched in awe, along with a few hundred others in the Woolley Stand. He was out on 61, finally the vagaries of the April track getting the better of him. As we know, all Earthly joys are fleeting, and this demise though cruel was inevitable.
There was about ten minutes until lunch then, but with Bell-Drummond gone, I felt a little flat, and went downstairs to avail myself of the facilities. It was packed. Everyone must have felt the same. Sod the ten minute wait, the joy is over.
There’s a quote on the back of the Woolley Stand, “there was all summer in a stroke from Woolley, and he batted as it is sometimes shown in dreams”. We all passed that quote on the way to the gents, and we must all dream. I can’t suggest the young man is anything like Frank Woolley, but there is a beauty in his batting like little else.
Our summers are Daniel Bell-Drummond’s now, but the spirit of Woolley lives on.

Marco Jackson

@Marco4J

 

2018-06-07T17:33:12+00:00 June 7th, 2018|County Cricket|18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. Doug M June 7, 2018 at 5:57 pm - Reply

    Kent? Not really.

  2. Keith Burley June 7, 2018 at 6:52 pm - Reply

    It’s a pity their so called supporters are so one-eyed and fail to applaud anything good which the opposition do.
    One of the most unhospitable clubs and never a pleasant place to visit.
    The club is also greedy which is shown by their entrance charges with no concessions for seniors.
    The players highlighted above are good for Division 2 of the Championship and that is where I expect them to stay.

    • Giles Falconer June 8, 2018 at 7:08 am - Reply

      Why ‘so called’ supporters? I’ve been a Kent member since 1971, through thick & thin. And I know many others with similar (or even longer) periods of support. And we always give due acknowledgement to players from other counties when they play well. Having seen games in a number of other counties, I can’t say I’ve noticed any as being more generous to visiting teams – not surprisingly all want their won team to win.

      And as for Senior Citizen concessions – yes Kent DOES offer them on membership.

    • James Morgan June 8, 2018 at 8:29 am - Reply

      Sorry Keith but that sounds a little harsh to me. I’m a Worcs fan exiled in Kent these days and I find the supporters to be a pleasant bunch. Compared to other sports I could mention (football for example) county cricket fans are more than hospitable, and the Kentish folk are no different.

  3. Chris June 7, 2018 at 7:04 pm - Reply

    I’m with you…stretch it from Canterbury to Kitts! As a Life Member who has lived overseas since 1978 I follow from afar but the last couple of years I have managed to spend a few weeks in Kent watching them grow into a side well worth watching.

    I saw young Zak Crawley’s debut against the Windies when he and Sean Dickson put on 182 for the second wicket last year and he is one to watch for the future. It is nice to have the local boy Joe Denly back and playing so well too. Darren Stevens is something else and weaves as much magic as his namesake’s wife Samantha! Only worry for the promotion run in is that we lose Matt Henry very soon now.

  4. Doug M June 7, 2018 at 8:02 pm - Reply

    £25 to go into a one eyed ground like Beckenham.
    £10 for Lords last Sunday.
    Never seen Bell- Drummond score any runs.

  5. Great Central June 7, 2018 at 8:21 pm - Reply

    To be fair with the exception of Middlesex no county now gives concessions for seniors. They should but they don’t

  6. Doug M June 7, 2018 at 9:18 pm - Reply

    Yes they do:Lancashire, Yorkshire, Nottingham, Hampshire and Essex all have concessions. Bought them this year.

  7. Marc Evans June 7, 2018 at 10:17 pm - Reply

    About time for some sort of resurgence as I remember them from the 1970’s when they fielded the likes of : Underwood, Knott, Cowdrey, Luckhurst, Woolmer, Tavare, Asif Iqbal, Ealham and Dilley. I don’t think the present crew quite measure up yet, but Its good to see there’s growth in the garden down there.
    Being a Warwickshire man I remember our West Indieshire from that era with the likes of : Kallicharran, Kanhai, Murray and Gibbs to supplement Amiss, Jameson, Brown and Willis.
    That was always an interesting match up. There were so many good overseas players in the championship then that became semi naturalised. Most counties had a couple of regulars that stayed with them many years.
    It was more difficult for the national side at home as so many of the opposition played over here regularly.

    • AndyB June 8, 2018 at 2:10 pm - Reply

      Apparently (according to an old Wisden I have) there was a ‘property qualification’ in those days! If the overseas player owned a property here they classed as domestic – and that meant Murray (and I think Kanhai) were in that category. The problem was that it resulted in so many overseas players that youngsters lacked chances – remember Warwick Tidy?

      On the subject of youngsters; whilst I was sorry to see Warwickshire lose last night I was mightily impressed to see 18 year old Henry Brookes hit 89mph on the Sky speed gun.

  8. Simon June 8, 2018 at 6:10 am - Reply

    The main difference this season is that the kent players look to be enjoying playing cricket rather than it being a chore. Mind you, maybe that’s easier when you have Henry destroying batting line ups and you’re not getting blown away week after week. Credit to joe Denly for doing a great job as stand in captain. He looks a different player to the one dropped prematurely by England a few years ago.

    • James Morgan June 8, 2018 at 8:32 am - Reply

      Joe Denly has always been a great talent and it’s a shame he never really kicked on at international level. I remember seeing him make runs for The Lions against Australia at New Road (must have been 2009 I think). He was awesome and looked by far the best Lions batsman. The way he pulled Brett Lee, who was bowling fast and clearly giving the other batsmen the hurry up, was incredibly impressive and a tad reminiscent of Vaughan on that 2002/3 Ashes tour down under. I remember thinking he’d make an excellent test player. However, like many before him he was thrust into the ODI openers role, tasked with scoring quickly, and came unstuck. Then he was forgotten about very quickly indeed. Not sure why.

  9. Andy C June 8, 2018 at 8:41 am - Reply

    Love the comments about the one-eyed Kent support – can only assume these people don’t attend matches anwhere other than Canterbury, Beckenham and Tunbridge Wells.

  10. Doug M June 8, 2018 at 10:43 am - Reply

    I attend matches at many grounds, but have always found both Kent and also Essex supporters to be the least liked. But there you are. Actually Canterbury and T. Wells are nice grounds.

  11. Simon H June 8, 2018 at 11:18 am - Reply

    Let’s call it “the Downton effect”!

  12. Benny June 8, 2018 at 12:08 pm - Reply

    Just to praise a magnificently crafted piece. Reminds me of the bygone days when we had cricket correspondents rather than the “cricket writers” of today.

    • Marco June 10, 2018 at 8:33 am - Reply

      Thanks, Benny. I’ve always erred to the more evocative – it’s probably why I tend to do more poems than prose. Was brought up with shelves full of Cardus, and his is the standard I shall be forever aiming for.

  13. WHS June 23, 2018 at 5:50 pm - Reply

    These cheats only won a County Championship match through cheating; a pitch in which 20 wickets fall on the first day, 6 on the second, 3 on the third? And where a side can score 440 in the fourth innings? A con trick; a fraud.

    My earnest wish is Warwickshire to win the 2nd Div, Leics to be 2nd and Kent 3rd. No less than these fraudsters deserve.

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