Kent v Sussex

Tuesday 13th July 2021 – LV County Championship Day 3 – St Lawrence Ground, Canterbury

Whether we like it or not, we have to accept that COVID and the impact is has on our lives is going to be here for awhile. Despite our return to some kind of normality just a few days away, the next few months will undoubtedly see major disruption to all of our lives from time to time.

In our footballing world at Lewes, we have already lost more than half of our pre-season games due to the impacts of a handful of cases, both from our side but also our opposition. The current rule of thumb is where there are positive cases and there has been or could be further risk of transmission, games are postponed. Granted, this isn’t too much of an issue in pre-season but come mid August when the season starts, it may be more of a problem.

Last week a number of cases within the England One Day squad led to mass self-isolation and the call up of a brand new squad, who considering the circumstances, pulled off a magnificent 3-0 series win over Pakistan. What’s the problem, some may ask? Well, in a couple of cases the players called up for immediate duty were still at the crease in their county games and had to “withdraw, not out” from their innings. If that wasn’t a disruption enough, on the eve of Kent’s game versus Sussex, a number of positive cases led to the whole squad being dismissed from duty and a new group pulled together.

It is less of an issue in cricket than football. At Lewes (as well as hundreds of other clubs), we don’t have deep pools of players, and cannot simply raid local clubs for players to play temporarily. Of course, we have our under18s side who would step into the breach if they could, but the county cricket game is slightly different in that they can call up club players, which is exactly what Kent did.

A member of the T20 squad that beat Surrey on Friday tested positive for COVID, meaning the rest of that squad had to isolate. Heino Kuhn was named captain of an improvised eleven that included five debutants, called up at such short notice that the game couldn’t start until midday on Monday to give the club time to register them all.

Day one was a real mixed bag – reducing Sussex to 181 all out after an opening fifty run partnership, then falling to 69-5 at the close. Day two saw early wickets fall before the rain fell and meant less than 90 minutes were possible. Two days to get a result for either of the teams looking to avoid bottom place in group 3 of the championship tables.

I arrived in a sunny Canterbury just in time to see the eighth Kent wicket fall without any further score. Trailing by 60 runs with just two wickets left, the pendulum had firmly swung in the visitors direction, but a career best 30 not out from Hamid Qadri got Kent to within sixteen runs by the end of the innings.

The key for Kent was to get early Sussex wickets. Alas, 147 runs later when the teams departed for tea, the openers were still not out. The big debate on the South Bank was not of the impacts of COVID on the game, nor the fact that five residents in the retirement flats opposite were having their afternoon snoozes, but what was the best Ready Salted crisp. I have no idea how it started but it escalated when someone suggested Pringles.

“They are no crisp in my book. They are all the same shape, size and colour. They are made up of the bits of crisp that nobody else wants”. Controversial view and one that saw Salt ‘n’ Shake and French Fries thrown into the mix. By the time Orr and Haines returned to the pitch, there was some consensus on McCoys being “not bad” and things calmed down again.

Orr was finally caught for 119 to break the 209 run opening partnership, the best I have seen in a while, with Haines falling for 94. Sussex ended the day on 277-3, a lead of almost 300 and in a bit of a pickle as to whether they declared at the end of the day and had a full day to attack the Kent batting line up, or bat for another hour or so and guarantee the draw. Who doesn’t love the 4-day game for nuances like this?

Day two of my cricket week had delivered on sunshine, cultural and intellectual debate and almost three hundred runs. I’ve had worst Tuesday’s to be honest.

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