Kent vs Surrey – T20

Friday 3rd June 2022 – The Vitality T20 Blast – St Lawrence Ground, Canterbury

Friday night under the lights at Canterbury. One of the biggest rivalries in English cricket – not quite up there with Lancashire and Yorkshire, or Notts and Derbyshire, but definitely one of the oldest in the game, with this season being the 249 years since the two sides faced each other for the first time in what is believed to have been the first ever county match in England.

Surrey traveled down the A2 with a hundred percent record to face Kent who also had a similar record – however, for T20 Blast Champions Kent, it was four defeats out of four games. The record in T20s between the two sides was equal – 18 wins a piece but the form book doesn’t line, nor did the bookies odds which had Kent at 2.75 to win.

Whilst we are only supposed to support one team in a sport, I have a foot in both camps here. Born and raised in Kent, now living and working in South East London. I’m a member at both counties, The Oval handy for an evening after work or an early lunch to grab an hour’s play in the County Championship, whilst for a good Friday night or a picnic Sunday, the St Lawrence ground is perfect.

Cricket has come in for some stick this week for its ticket pricing policies which has left empty seats at some grounds, none more so than on Thursday night at The Oval. But Kent’s pricing structure of £25 for adults is about right. The advantage when a team is poor is that you stand a good chance of seeing at least one good innings. Whilst there’s no flash new stands at Canterbury, the set up on the South Bank, with bars and food outlets at the top of the slope, creates a good spectator environment.

The choices are excellent – Thai, Greek, wood fired pizza, burgers and roast chicken – and whilst the queues aren’t short, everyone can still watch the game whilst waiting. Naturally fans can also bring their own food in, something which shamelessly wasn’t an option at Worcestershire earlier in the day where the club policy (initially erroneously communicated as an ECB policy) was no food could be brought in. That saw cup cakes being confiscated from young children and food taken away from diabetics on the gate. How mean and petty can cricket clubs get?

Thai Red Curry devoured and a pint of Bear Island in hand we waited for the Surrey openers to arrive. Surrey had lost the toss and been put into bat for the third consecutive T20 game, bringing the power play specialists Jason Roy and Will Jacks to the middle. Eleven balls in and the in-form Jacks mistimed a pull and sent the ball high into the air for Denny to take.

Surrey have a strong batting line up this year and even with Pollard missing there’s runs right down the order. Curran, following up from his half-century on Thursday made 43 but it was slow going and when he departed with the score at 86-3 almost 12 overs had passed. Narine scored the first six of the innings in the 15th over and if it wasn’t for a superb late cameo of 27 from Jamie Overton including three sixes, they would have finished on 130-odd.

It was set up nicely for Kent – exactly eight an over to claim their first win of this season’s competition and keep their hopes of a knock out place still alive. Unfortunately, losing Bell-Drummond for 3 in the first over wasn’t in the plan. Cox went soon after adding more pressure onto the shoulders of skipper Sam Billings. He managed a run a ball, as the required run rate continued to creep up before holing out to Jacks on the boundary for 17.

Surrey’s bowling and fielding was impeccable. They strangled the life out of the Kent batsmen. After 15 overs Kent were on 81-5 and had only hit four boundaries in the innings. Chris Jordan rotated the Surrey attack well and even had the opportunity not to use Sam Curran who had taken 9 wickets in the last week in their T20 games.

With two overs to go Joe Denly was still out in the middle, having faced 42 balls since opening the batting and had scored 43. At the other end Stewart gave the home crowd something to cheer about with two sixes off Topley before being caught by Smith off the third ball in the over, then Denly followed 3 balls later.

Kent finished the innings on 127-9, at least not being bowled out. But this was an impressive victory for Surrey – not for their batting but their tidy bowling and excellent fielding that saw all nine Kent wickets result from catches. Surrey remain the on,y side in this year’s competition with a 100% win record, whilst Kent join Hampshire on not yet gaining a point.

Yes, it was a disappointing result for the home fans but there can’t be many who will have gone home without having enjoyed a Friday night under the lights at Canterbury, and long may that continue.

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