Monday, November 11, 2013

Kent v Lancashire, County Championship, St Lawrence Ground, 3rd day, 26 September 2013

First, a staffing matter. I am pleased to announce that my (former) Waikato correspondent has accepted reassignment as my Khandallah correspondent and will henceforth be based at My Life in Cricket Scorecards Towers. In these constrained times we must harbour our resources prudently.

She left to return to New Zealand to take up her new duties on the second day of this game, which entailed a trip round the M25 in the morning rush hour, the motoring equivalent of watching Derek Shackleton bowling to PJK Gibbs all day. So it was not until the third day that I took my place in the stand for the rare treat of Championship cricket at St Lawrence.

It was the first time that I had watched cricket this late in September. In my cricketing adolescence the season always ended sharply in the first week of September as if fun was rationed. But here, in autumn’s vanguard, it was perfect, the sun warm and constant, and no more than a hint of seasonal rust about the foliage. None of the threat to life that the extension of the beginning of the season to Arctic early April brings with it. If I were in charge there would be two things done on the first day, the first being an absolute ban on cricket in England before the last weekend in April (the second we’ll come to).

The match had nothing on it. Lancashire were already champions of Division 2, Kent long out of the running to join them back in the top league. Yet the match was played keenly and never descended to the depths that some end-of-season games that my Blean correspondent (who was there to enjoy the fun today) and I have dutifully sat through.

In 1976, for example, John Snow gave a display of boundary fielding as unenthusiastic as a sulky teenager at a great aunt’s birthday party. My Blean correspondent and I are uncertain whether the great fast bowler actually kicked one back to the keeper but it would have been completely within the spirit of his performance had he done so. Another time, Chris Cowdrey devoted part of the first day to improving Kent’s over rate by bowling himself and others off two or three paces.

No, this was proper cricket, with meaning.
Kent 2013. More hangers on than in days gone by. Coach Jimmy Adams is back row left. He made a brief appearance as a substitute fielder

The day began with Lancashire 75 without loss in their second innings, a lead of 99. According to all reports Lancashire’s first innings lead was down to the slippery fingers of the Kent fielders. The affliction continued now as opener Luis Reece was dropped by Rob Key, diving at second slip. Key broke his thumb and ended his participation in the game (or so we thought at the time).

Reece did not stay long. He gave Tredwell the charge in the Kent skipper’s first over and was stumped with time to spare by Sam Billings. Billings replaced Geraint Jones for the final two Championship games bringing to an end Jones’ run of 115 consecutive Championship games. Whether it means that the (mostly) distinguished line Kent keepers now moves to the next generation is not yet clear. Billings was generally sound, but mangled a straightforward stumping chance, and it is what they miss that keepers are judged by. 

Reece’s departure brought in Ashwell Prince to join Paul Horton. They treated us to some fine batting, putting on 167 for the second wicket, 42 short of the Lancashire record against Kent, set by Harry Makepeace and Johnny Tyldesley at St Lawrence as the young men of Europe signed up for death in August 1914. Both Horton and Prince scored hundreds, in Prince’s case his second of the match, the first time this had been achieved for Lancashire for 15 years and only the sixteenth time in the county’s history. Horton’s innings was a model of proficiency and consistent tempo, which is not to say that it unattractive. Prince’s was a cut above. His timing and ease of shot meant that he scored at a good rate without ever seeming to hurry.

The latter overs of the Lancashire innings were brightened by some spirited tonking by Andrea Agathangelou with a half century off 35 balls including two sixes. At this stage it was just a question of how much Horton would choose to leave Kent to chase. He settled on 418 and left Kent 40 minutes and the whole of the last day to get them.
We sat in the old stand, next to the dressing rooms

What of the Kent bowling? Mark Davies was ordinary and the young left-armer Adam Ball erratic. Nineteen-year-old Matt Hunn was making his first-class debut. He’s tall and has the potential to be quick and awkward, but my he’s thin. The physios will be busy there, mark my words. Today, as on so many days, the attck was carried by Tredwell and Stevens, who bowled well over half the overs between them.

Stevens is Kent’s go-to guy for everything except wicketkeeping and supervising the car park. He finished the season as leading run scorer and was only one behind Charlie Shreck as wicket-taker. With an open-chested action and rolling approach to the crease he put me in mind of John Shepherd, but without Shep’s ability to fire a quicker short ball in to keep the batsman honest (Shepherd has just turned 70 by the way).

Tredwell bowled well, 40 overs at under three an over, mostly against batsmen with their eye in. Not long ago he seemed likely to be picked for the Australia tour, but a mauling in the ODIs put paid to that, though I can’t see why it should.

At least Tredwell got a game. The saddest sight at the St Lawrence on these two days was that of Simon Kerrigan carrying out twelfth man duties for Lancashire.  A little over a month before he had made his Test debut at The Oval, a decent performance there a quick path to fame and fortune, or at least a cushy winter carrying the drinks around Australia. Instead Shane Watson attacked him and his bowling repertoire was reduced to full tosses and long hops. His confidence was so damaged that he lost his county place as well.
Kerrigan on lonely twelfth man duty

In the absence of Key, Daniel Bell-Drummond opened with Sam Northeast, but fell lbw to Newby from the last ball of the day. Kent are giving young talent its chance; perhaps the finances mean there’s no option, but it is a good thing as long as they can save up enough to keep the best ones when the richer counties come in for them. Kent were 32 for one at the close.

Delightful as the day was, I never quite got over the disappointment with which it began. I have been much taken with there now being a small Sainsbury’s supermarket on the ground. In fact, it rests partly on the space on which Cyril Garnham’s scorecard hut used to be found, just behind the white scoreboard. (Scorecards now, by the way, cost a pound. I remember when you couldn’t lift all the scorecards you could buy for a pound). There was a pleasingly large supermarket at Folkestone right beside the ground, and there’s a whole shopping centre across the road from Seddon Park in Hamilton. 

So with a spring in my step not dissimilar to that of a five-year-old entering Santa’s grotto, in I went, seeking to recreate the extensive supply of provisions that kept a hungry young cricket watcher nourished in the seventies, but without the need to lug it all up the Old Dover Road. There were Jaffa Cakes, Club biscuits, sausage rolls and even prawn cocktail flavoured crisps.

But no Scotch eggs.

So that’s the second thing. Any food store within 500 metres of a first-class cricket venue must, on any scheduled playing day, ensure that Scotch eggs are available for sale up to the advertised end of play on pain of immediate closure.


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