Kent v Durham

Thursday 22nd July 2021 – The Royal London Cup – The County Ground, Beckenham

On a day when the cricketing headlines were about the apparent success of the opening Hundred game last night at the Oval, with a sell-out crowd of 7,400 and a peak TV audience of 1.7m, my cricketing day would start with Kent’s opening game at their residence around the corner, in relative terms, at Beckenham in the Royal London Cup.

Beckenham and I have history. Prior to Kent using the ground as part of their annual pilgrimage from Canterbury it belonged to Lloyds Bank. It was here I scored my second ever 50 and recorded my first ever golden duck, run out trying to tie the scores versus Lloyds Bank City Division when I played for West End. Back then the clubhouse offered pints at £1.50, chicken in a basket for £3 and a monthly disco where you could freely mingle with the bank’s staff from South East London. Today, the clubhouse has gone, replaced by smart flats that for 4-5 days a year get a pitch side view of first-class cricket.

It’s an ongoing debate as to the merits of using Beckenham as it’s not in Kent in any shape or form. The residents of Bromley down the road will argue they aren’t a London Borough due to not having a BR postcode, so being just 8.5 miles from London Bridge surely puts Beckenham into London. The Beckenham ground backs onto Crystal Palace’s training ground, a London football club. But who really cares when there’s a cricket game to watch.

Perhaps nobody told the Durham openers Clark and Lee’s this was a fifty over game as they set the tone of the innings from the first over, ripping into the veteran Matt Stevens and bringing the fifty up after just eight overs. Then it was 100, 150 and 200, with Graham Clark smashing anything that was short of a length to the boundary. There were few chances given – a single dropped catch, low to the ground at mid-wicket was probably the only mistake Clark made prior to reaching his century.

Clark finally departed, caught at point by Quinn of the bowling of O’Riordan for 141, an innings of 119 balls and almost a century in boundaries. He outpaced his fellow opener Alex Lees by over 50% in balls faced and runs scored in an opening partnership of 242 in just under 34 overs. The incoming batsmen Bedingham dispatched his first ball from O’Riordan back over his head for six.

Lees more patient approach was finally rewarded with a century off 97 balls. The next ball, as if the shackles were removed, he played his first rash shot of his innings and was caught at short third man.

Bedingham reached his fifty with another six with his 33rd ball, the hitting Stevens for four fours before being caught in the deep on the 5th ball, departing for 67 off 38 balls. Bancroft then took up the scoring mantle, reaching his 50 off 34 balls, and bringing the 400 up with another six.

405 in a four day game is a decent score – in a 50 over innings it’s superb. Durham completely controlled the innings, taking full advantage of a flat wicket, some indifferent fielding and a Kent side recovering from their self-isolation. It was the tenth highest ever score in the domestic 50 over game.

OK Kent, let’s see what you can do. The second best T20 side in the country despite playing their final games with a scratch squad due to COVID self-isolation. Only two sides had scored more than 406 in a second innings, and nobody had chased a total so high to win. No pressure then as Robinson and Muyeye opened the batting.

Despite a decent start, scoring 24 off the opening three overs, the loss of Muyeye for 15 in the 4th over wasn’t the start they needed. Three wickets down for 50 runs after six overs. They had time but did they have the depth of batting? Munsey and Finch gave us all hope, putting on 138 runs, with the Munsey scoring 96 off 79 balls. Alas, all of that feint hope disappeared when Finch when for 64, leaving Kent needing 205 off twenty overs.

The Kent players, given such a run around in the heat by the Durham batsmen earlier in the day gave it a go and 300 on another day would be enough to win most games batting second, but Durham’s record breaking show was enough to take the points from the opening game in the cup that the ECB want to forget, so it seems.

And now, onto the star attraction, if you believe the hype and a trip to The Oval for the first men’s game in the Hundred. The new format promises rapid scoring and big hitting but it would be hard pushed to match the performance of the Durham side here.

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