With no game for Essex I headed to Beckenham to watch a key game for both Kent and Essex. I’m an Essex member and fan through and through but love to watch the likes of Daniel Bell Drummond and Sam Northeast play, this game had the added bonus of Ben Duckett opening the batting for the visitors.
Alex Wakely took the decision to put Kent in to bat, the day was largely overcast and the events of the day saw his decision confirmed as the right one. First Class cricket has been played at Beckenham since 1954 and hosted 2 games in the Women’s World Cup in 1993. Kent have been using the ground on a regular basis since 2003 with facilities being uplifted to include a 2048-seater stand, an indoor cricket school and 3G football pitches in 2013/14.
From a personal perspective parking is key when visiting a new ground, Beckenham has plenty, so that was a good start, plenty of choice for a seat was another, my preferred option of behind the bowlers arm was free!
Although Northants won the T20 Final they’d had a less than perfect season, having played 14 games and won only 2, whereas Kent went into this game with a good chance of promotion to Division 1. Sam Northeast the Kent captain has had a great summer, scoring 1093 runs in total and top scoring at Tunbridge Wells, an innings I was lucky enough to see, with 191. Ben Duckett, a young man whose name has been mentioned in despatches over the season has been keeping track with 1043 runs before this match and a top score of 282. This match was a mouth watering prospect!
I was expecting runs galore, what I wasn’t expecting, along with every Kent fan there was to see Kent bowled out for 230! 3 batsmen made 166 of those runs between them, Sean Dickson making 63 from 159 balls, Will Gidman 51 from 98 and Matt Coles, a man with a mighty bat, 52 from 45 balls. The wickets were fairly evenly split amongst the Northants bowlers with Rory Kleinveldt top of the list with 3.
There was time for a few overs left as the end of the day approached, Ben Duckett and Robert Newton came to the wicket making 31 before the close of play, there was a very loud appeal for what I imagine was a catch on the last ball of the day, at the time I thought it was a wicket, but no, just the last ball.
I was unable to make Day 2 I had one of my most important diary dates, a visit from my hairdresser, one my hair simply wouldn’t allow me to miss, that meant I missed a huge innings from Ben Duckett, another Double Century, 208 to be precise, he faced 251 balls and I believe only left a handful, he was almost single handedly taking promotion away from Kent. Captain Alex Wakely weighed in with 73 add in a couple of cameo roles and Northants were 347 for 5. Cue a collapse as the remaining batsmen were despatched for 37 runs giving the visitors 384 and a lead of 154.
What must have been a remarkable day of cricket saw things go from bad to worse for Kent however as they found themselves on 15 for 4 at stumps! I was following the game on the ECB App and couldn’t believe my eyes Rory Kleinveldt had taken the wickets of Daniel Bell Drummond and Sean Dickson, with Hardus Viljoen coming in as Night Watchman with Joe Denly, who was out first ball. Kent had the prospect of 2 so called night watchman at the crease, but not for too long as James Tredwell became Kleinveldt’s 4th victim. That lead of 154 must have grown in front of the Kent teams’ eyes!
I drove to Beckenham for Day 3 hoping for a full day of cricket. To the disquiet of several fellow Essex fans, Sam Billings had driven back from Old Trafford where he’d sat in the England dug out as they were pretty much thrashed by Pakistan in the only T20 clash between the 2 countries. I was of the mind that Essex had promotion in their hands and that’s where both the team and fans energies should be focused, either way rules are rules and as long as a player and the player he’s due to replace, in this case Callum Jackson, are named as the match starts and the replacement player can play for 2 full days it’s perfectly above board!
Sam Northeast and Viljoen were at the crease to start the day, however Kents’ captain and batting hero didn’t last long, 22 balls and 1 run and he was back in the pavilion. Out came Sam Billings to join Viljoen, Kent were on 22 for 5 and staring defeat in the face. The pair put on 84 runs with some entertaining batting. Hardus Viljoen is a powerful man and hit some great shots, scoring an entertaining 63, including 7 fours before he wafted at a ball from Stephen Crook, he was caught by Duckett in the slips. Billings followed 2 overs later, having scored 39 and with his wicket went hope as far as Kent were concerned.
Darren Stevens had a part to play however, he added 44 runs to Kent’s paltry total, seeing Will Gidman become Kleinveldt’s 5th wicket and Matt Coles being bowled by Rob Keogh, Mitch Claydon the man with one of the biggest smiles in cricket lasted long enough to score 4 before Stevens was out, giving Kent a total of 184 and a lead of 30.
Ben Duckett and Robert Newton took 27 balls to make the 31 needed to win the game and take the promotion hopes of Kent in one fell swoop. After a troubled season with the red ball Northants delight was plain as their singing rang out of the away dressing room, the dejection as Kent’s season faded away was also clear to see. Kent play Essex in the last game of the season, Essex need 5 points from the match against Glamorgan to cement promotion, Kent will need a miracle of sorts to be back in contention.
I enjoyed the 2 days I spent at Beckenham, I’ve always found the Kent members to be very friendly and welcoming and I’m sure it’ll stay that way when I travel to Canterbury to watch that final match. This match will have been very disappointing, but they can look back on some great performances both from the team and key individuals this summer.