Thursday 12th August 2021 – The Royal London Cup at The County Ground, Beckenham
This was to be Kent’s last game for 15 days. Despite the recent attempts to lengthen the season, starting now in early April and the last games almost knocking on October’s door, cricket is a summer sport. Granted, our recent wet and wild weather may not feel particularly tropical but that’s not a rare occurrence but this should be the peak cricketing period. Instead, for the next week or so most counties will have no competitive games.
Kent have the T20 quarter-final against Birmingham Bears to look forward to but for other counties such as Derbyshire, Middlesex and Worcestershire do not play again until Bank Holiday Monday. Next weekend, there are no games at all bar the final of The Hundred. Let’s take this moment to give the ECB a round of applause. Aside from the havoc that their new competition has caused to the county game, surely one of the legacy objectives of The Hundred is to get new fans into the game. How? When?
This was the fourth game played in “Metropolitan Kent”, with one rained off, one rain impacted and one that Durham’s batsmen essentially won the game within 30 overs. Naturally, being mid-August, it was overcast and the threat of rain hung in the air. The weather wasn’t going to save Kent and their 50-over campaign. They were bottom of Group A but a win against Gloucestershire could see them leapfrog them and finish with some respectability. Or not.
The visitors won the toss and put Kent in. The gloomy conditions made it perfect for a bit of swing but the openers, Robinson and Muyeye handled everything bowled at them, albeit not taking advantage of the power play overs and struggling to keep the run rate above 4 an over. They made it to 60 before Muyeye fell, caught by Smith off Warner for 30.
Robinson played a patient innings, keeping his end up, so to speak, whilst at the other end wickets fell with some regularity. He eventually became the fifth wicket to fall in the 32nd over for 75, having scored over 50% of Kent’s 136. The veteran Darren Stevens mustered 40 before he mistimed a hook shot and the ball came off his glove straight to wicket keeper Bracey, one of the five catches he took in the innings.
It looked touch and go whether Kent would reach 200 but a late flurry from Podmore and Logan saw them finish on 218/9, helped by a couple of dropped catches in the outfield. A target of 4.4 an over shouldn’t have been a problem for the visitors.
Last Sunday here at Beckenham there were plenty of catering options for fans – Burgers, Burritos, Thai and Waffles. Today there was just a burger van that “due to operational issues”, couldn’t serve any food. An apologetic PA announcement bigged up the local options close by the ground, by which they meant a 20 minute walk to Waitrose. Basics.
Gloucestershire started as if they wanted to beat the rush hour on the M25, passing 50 without loss in the 8th over. The veteran Stevens came on to great applause only to be dispatched for 13 in his first over, whilst every mistimed stroke seemed to dissect the field and pass the boundary rope.
One Kent fan in the front row of the stand kept up his monologue, making up random chants for the players. One, that absolutely nobody could fathom was “I’d rather be a sausage than an egg”. There didn’t seem to be any context to it although I’m sure the students of Freud may have some ideas.
Ten overs complete and Gloucs had 63 for no wicket in the loss but they got a breakthrough finally in the 12th over when the spin of Leaning beat the bat of Ollie Price and he departed LBW for 24. Captain Chris Dent retained his calmness though, reaching his half century in the 16th over as Gloucs passed the hundred mark retaining a run rate of 5.5 an over.
Desperate to find a breakthrough, Kent opening bat Tawanda Muyeye was given a bowl, his first ever spell in his Kent first-class career, conceding just one run in his debut over. Nine more of those and Kent would be in with a shout. The next over, in Logan’s first, Bracey tried a reverse sweep, missed and was given out LBW.
That was the last success Kent had. Chris Dent scored his hundred off one hundred balls whilst at the other end van Buuren eased to an easy fifty, the two putting on an unbeaten stand of with 106 as Gloucestershire won with 12 overs to go. In the context of the competition it was as comprehensive victory as there could be, a million miles away from the T20 performances. The win, coupled with Lancashire’s tie against Essex meant that Gloucestershire progress, by the narrowest – technically one run, but all in all, I’ve spent worse Thursdays.