Division 2 of the County Championship was looking to be on a knife edge with the final game between ‘old foes’ Kent and Essex at Canterbury set up as the decider for the trophy. But, along came Northants to spoil that scenario for Kent, beating them soundly at Beckenham in the penultimate game of the summer. Essex achieved the 5 points needed to finish top and gain promotion a week later at the County Ground against Glamorgan.
That left in effect a dead rubber at Canterbury, one that would see Kent, pipped at the post having to present Essex with not only the Mike Dennis Trophy, a trophy contested by the two clubs, but also the Championship trophy, that felt like rubbing salt in the wound. But, there was a game of cricket to play before that could happen.
I’m an Essex fan with a soft spot for Kent, which is probably very strange! I greatly admire a couple of Kent players, Sam Northeast in particular. A fine young batsman the Kent captain would make his 2000th run for the season during this game. I’d been lucky enough to see 2 of Sam’s great innings this summer (with a 3rd added at Canterbury) he scored 166 Not Out at Chelmsford against Essex, in a losing cause after Kent had collapsed in the first innings. I also saw him score 190 against Sussex at the beautiful Nevill Ground in Tunbridge Wells, that game ended in a draw but this man is a sight to behold once he gets going. I can’t understand why his name isn’t mentioned as a possible England player, I sincerely hope that changes for him very soon.
And so to Canterbury – I set my alarm for 7:15 am to ensure I arrived on time, had I been thinking I’d have checked the weather situation in Kent. I arrived in plenty of time to see wet pavements and a delayed start. That delayed start turned into no play on Day 1, so, a chilled day spent chatting was the upshot of that early alarm. Worse things have happened.
That left 3 days for a cricket match producing a result. The toss was uncontested, meaning Essex elected to field and the Kent batsmen went about seeking some revenge for the earlier losses in the season. One Kent player always seems to lift his performances when playing against Essex and this match was to be no exception for Darren Stevens, having a wonderful season at 40 he top scored with 136, a fine innings which was widely applauded by all in the ground. Joe Denly started the runs fest with 74 and Northeast added 56 to his and his teams’ tally. Kent batted into what was now Day 3 and achieved 441. Matt Dixon was the pick of the Essex bowlers taking 5 wickets for 124 runs.
A draw was looking the most likely result with a curtailed game. Essex lost 4 wickets for 137 runs leaving the 19 year old Dan Lawrence, England’s U19’s player of the year for 2015, to make his mark and give Essex a reasonable score. He scored 88 runs, including 10 fours and a mighty six. It was a shame that those Kent fans around us didn’t clap his efforts as they were happening. It was also a shame that he went for a second big hit after his six only to have the ball fall short to be caught by Joe Denly from the bowling of James Tredwell.
Paul Walter who has just signed a years contract extension showed promise with the bat, standing at what must be in excess of 6ft 7 he made 28 batting at number 9 before James Tredwell took his bails.
Another feature of this match I haven’t mentioned is that this was David Masters swan song, A man of Kent turned Essex man he’s announced his retirement the week before. It was clear David is not only held in high regard by the Essex players and fans but also the Kent family. I don’t think I saw him without a smile on his face for the 4 days. He came in at 10 and was batting with Matt Dixon to raise Essex’s total to avoid the follow on.
Day 4 started with Essex needing 3 to avoid that follow on, Matt Dixon got those 3 runs then was caught by Mitch Claydon from the bowling of Matt Coles. Essex had amassed 292 runs and Kent would bat again.
I’m sure both teams had an idea of how the day would go, but obviously the assembled fans didn’t. I was sitting with my good friend Stella amongst Kent fans and again they disappointed in their response to the fact that Sam Northeast didn’t declare to set up an unlikely result, he carried on batting to finish the day not out on 178. To hear his own fans slow handclapping and booing was disturbing and very unfair as the man who finished the season on 2,073 First Class runs put on another great performance. That performance was aided by 2 0vers bowled by Kishen Velani who went for 36 runs from 12 balls, it did appear that Essex were trying to help Northeast reach his double century. However the day and season came to a close before that happened.
Kent had given David Masters a guard of honour as he came in to bat on Day 3 and Essex gave him a similar accolade as he left the field.
Trophy time came and it was great to see Alastair Cook there to support his team mates, another ‘retiree’ Graham Napier was also there with a huge smile on his face along with James Foster and captain Ryan ten Doeschate who hadn’t taken part in the game were there to enjoy the celebrations and Kent did their rivals proud. During any other season both teams would have been promoted, I for one am hoping Kent make the jump in 2017.
I apologise that my photos are rather muddled – I took so many they seem to have gone out of order