Phew, What a Scorcher!

 On the hottest day of the year what better way to spend a family Sunday afternoon than at one of the most picturesque cricket grounds in the world?  There can be no denying the appeal of Canterbury’s St Lawrence Ground on the harshest of English summer days, but when the sun is out, the temperature rises and the beer is flowing it is a wonderful place.  Bribed with a bit of tobogganing in the morning (yep – hottest day of the year and we went down the UK’s longest toboggan run) the Fuller family were excited to continue down the A2 for a spot of Twenty20 action as Kent faced the Sussex Sharks.

We arrived a full hour before the game started, but already the car park was filling up.  The St Lawrence ground is one of the few that allows you to drive you car right up to the boundary, meaning we had a “tailgate” party so the Americans say.  CMF had laid on all the extras – sausage rolls, cherries, salad cream and of course a few beers – perfect for the sunshine.  Soon it was time for Sussex to try and get their Twenty20 campaign back on track after two wins from their four games.  They won the toss and decided to bat first…..

 Kent Spitfires 133-5 beat Sussex Sharks 132-7 by 5 wickets – St Lawrence Ground – Sunday 31st May

I fell out of my chair again

I fell out of my chair again

It is important in Twenty20 to a) start off fast with just two fielders allowed outside the inner circle, and b) not to lose your top order batsmen in the first five or so overs.  Sussex got half of this right – Goodwin monopolised the strike early on and hit over a run a ball in the first few overs, but never received the support his hitting deserved.  Nash, Martin-Jenkins, Ed Smith and Ed Joyce all departed for less than five runs between them, facing just sixteen balls.  44-4 after just eight overs was not a promising start.

The girls had got used to flashing their scorecards in the air whenever the music came on but it was more for the wickets than the boundaries in the first fifteen overs as apart from Goodwin’s quick fire 39, and a dogged 26 from Yardy there was little boundary action (nine in fact in the first fourteen overs).

70 for 6 with just five overs to go brought ex-Kent big hitter Yasir Arafat to the crease and he demonstrated what his ex-employees were missing.  43 runs from a shade over 30 balls was a real Twenty20 innings.  The girls had been waiting patiently for a six all innings, but in their trip to the little girls room which took all of 4 balls they missed two of them from Arafat including one that clear the first two rows of cars in the outfield.  132 for 7 was another low score in the competition and underlines the issues batsmen had had with the early start to the competition this season.  That being said, some fantastic bowling from Mahmood with 3 for 16 from his four overs did help.

So a tad over six an over was required by Kent but they fell into the same trap as the Sharks with three wickets going down very cheaply in the opening few overs.  However if there are two batsmen in England at the moment who are in tip top batting form then it is ex-England wicketkeeper Geraint Jones and Martin Van Jaarsveld.  The South African had already hit four centuries so far this season and looked to another hit innings here with three boundaries in his first four balls.  His 39 from 32 balls was the catalyst for Jones to go onto to hit the first fifty I have seen this season, scoring 56 in less than forty balls including three sixes.  With Jones in his mid-thirties he hit a magnificent strike towards the boundary (as luck would have it the little Fullers had gone on another toilet break) and the Sussex fielding pair of Dwayne Smith and Chris Nash.  Smith palmed the ball up in the air but collided in the process with the on rushing Nash, sending him flying into the advertising hoardings.  It was obvious that Nash was hurt (none of the histrionics from cricketers like footballers) and after fifteen minutes of treatment an ambulance was summoned and Nash was taken away with a suspected broken leg.  Jones fell eventually for 56 with the scores level but three overs to go meant Kent easily coasted home.

It was a great afternoon.  Isabella got to wear all of her make up at various points in the afternoon, Lolly managed to don her best St Tropez scowl and CMF managed to burn her Charlies without actually getting them out.  Great days…

It’s still round, just smaller and harder

 It had to end at some point, and try as I might to to eek out every possible football match this season there was always going to come a point where there simply wasn’t any more games.  I had planned for such weekends, filling in the gaps between the play offs, friendlies and European Under 21 Championships with Rugby League, Motor Racing and of course, cricket.

We are blessed with a great location for watching in South East London.  We have six counties within an hour’s drive and within those at least three first class county venues, including The Oval, Lords and Beckenham.  Now this is the thing about Cricket.  Venues aren’t always where they seem.  Beckenham is in London.  It is five miles westish from us here and we are definitely in London.  Yet it is a Kent ground.  The Oval is just two miles from the Houses of Parliament but is in Surrey, and Lords, well don’t get me started on Middlesex.

Cricket is still a sport in turmoil.  The success of the Twenty20 competition has completely devalued the rest of the season, and often sees world class cricketers battling it out in front of a few dozen supporters during the week.  In order to make it more appealing to spectators they have adopted the coloured kits, squad numbers and other Americanisms in order to appeal to a new audience.  Every year there seems to be a new competition name which is essentially the same as last years but with a new format which is designed to ensure the spectators are confused.

This year we have the Friends Provident Trophy.  Essentially a 50 overs a side group based tournament where the top two progress after playing each other twice.  Kent had become a one day specialist team over the past few seasons.  They had won the Twenty20 Cup a couple of seasons ago, and had a decent run again last year.  However, their form in the “longer” game had been poor in the past few seasons and they had dropped into the lower divisions for both the County Championship and the old Sunday League competition.  So hope for a turn around wasn’t seen to be short term but the county had started well in the Friends Provident (the Carling Cup equivalent) with two wins from their first three games.

 CMF had left me.  Simply packed her bags, left me with the Little Fullers and gone.  Disappearing off into the night at 3am without so much as a note explaining how to plait the girls hair.  Ok – not strictly true – she had gone to Menorca with her chums, and being the perfect husband I waved her off with a few Euro’s, a new game for her DS and our little black books of smut.  So I had the Little Fuller’s for a week.  Day one was a school day and that was ticked off in text book fashion with all the washing, drying and ironing done.  Day two and Swimming Lessons completed, girls dried and dressed.  Littlest Fuller was going to one of her friends for the night so Lolly and I had planned a football fest.  Unfortunately the traffic put pay to our planned trip to the FA Trophy Final at Wembley but we still went to the Liverpool game at Upton Park which is mentioned elsewhere.

Littlest Fuller eventually rolled in at 1pm on Sunday, and with the sun shining and all the chores done I decided that cricket was on the agenda, and so an hour later we were parking the car under one of the smaller oak trees in the St Lawrence Ground in Canterbury, one of the prettiest grounds in the country when the sun is shining.  An ice cream for the two girls and a Shepherds Neame for me and we settled down to see if I could condense the rules of cricket into 30 second soundbites.

Lolly is just getting the rules of football under her belt.  She still throws in the odd curve ball – “What happens if the attacker shoots, the ball hits the referee in the face and goes in the goal BUT the shot knocks the ref unconscious.  Is it a goal and if so who awards it?” but I was opening myself up for some real pain here.  Try explaining why a player is rubbing a ball on his trousers furiously, Try getting them to understand why someone would stand at Silly Mid Wicket, and why is it Silly and try explaining that bowling a maiden over has nothing to do with snogging.

Kent CCC 219-6 beat Warwickshire CCC 218 all out by 4 wickets – Friends Provident Trophy – Canterbury – Sunday 10th May 2009

St Lawrence Ground

St Lawrence Ground

It’s hard to concisely report on cricket as it is relatively predictable.  One team will win by scoring more than the other – simple as that.  How do you explain a wicket?  The batsman missed the ball and it hits the stumps?  Well we had missed the Warwickshire innings, during which they scored a disappointing 218 all out.  Recalled England batsman Ian Bell lasted just 5 balls for the visitors and it was only the adventurous play of Troughton who scored 62 including 3 sixes and 6 fours that raised the interest levels. 

Kent in reply raced to 117-2 in just 20 overs before wickets started to fall.  The opener Denly fell 1 short of his fifty and Geriant Jones raised some cheers with a six but it was relatively pedestrian throughout the innings that eventually saw Kent win with nine overs to go.

But what about the crowd?  Well what was surprising was the mix.  Lots of older couples, with comfy chairs on the boundary, the Sunday papers and a nice picnic spread intermingled with young families.  Many had headphones on, which I assumed was for the cricket but as I was in the shop when Chelsea opened the scoring in their game against Arsenal (it was being shown live on TV in there) there was an audible cheer from the crowd – even the Warwickshire player Woakes asked a member of the crowd what the Man Utd score was!  Littlest Fuller couldn’t understand the whole game so simply went into her own word and started talking to ants, where as Lolly was her usual engrossed self.

As we left with the sun still shining I asked them if they wanted to come back next week when we found Mummy.  A resounding “No!” from Littlest Fuller until I said we could have a picnic and she could bring her teddy bears (so easily bought) and Lolly said yes as long as she could wear her West Ham shirt….

About the St Lawrence Ground
Kent’s historic home has a capacity of 15,500 and has been home to Kent for over 160 years.  It is the only first class ground in the UK that has a tree within its boundary – the Lime tree although the current version is only 6 foot tall after the original was destroyed by disease and storms.  The ground has a number of two tier members only stands and low level open air seated terraces for general spectators.  It is also one of the only grounds in the country where you can drive your car to the boundary and watch the game from your front seats.

How to get to the St Lawrence Ground
The ground is located on the south of Canterbury and is best reached by car.  Follow the M2 coastbound and continue onto A2 for Canterbury and Dover.  At the junction with the A2050 turn right at the end of the slip road and go over the A2.  At the T-junction at the end of this road turn right and follow signs for Canterbury.  At the roundabout where the pub is, take the 2nd exit into Old Dover Road.  The ground is a mile down this road on the left.  The nearest railway station is Canterbury East, served by trains from the Medway towns and London Victoria.  It is a mile walk from here (turn right of station and follow ring road for five minutes and then turn right into Old Dover Road) or 5 minutes in a cab.

Getting a ticket for the St Lawrence Ground
Unless the game is an important knock out tournament game then tickets are sold on the gate on the Old Dover Road.  They can also be bought online from the official website –  Ticket prices vary per competition.  For an FP or Pro40 game it is £15 for Adults and £8 for Concessions, £20 (£10) for Twenty20 games and £15 for league games.  Parking costs £10 at the ground.