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Kent: one defeat too many!

Tuesday evening, for the first time in a long time I entered a temporary, self-imposed Twitter ban, fearful that I would say something I would later regret. The cause of the fume, Kent County Cricket Club.

I’d like to think that after over fifty years of supporting Somerset I’ve become accustomed to defeat and am pretty good at dealing with it. I’ve got my Dad to thank for that who grew up supporting them in the 40s and 50s when any win was reason for an open top bus tour around the town centre.

Strangely in my formative cricket watching years, the tolerance of defeat passed to me, he was the one who was much lower for longer after a loss than me. But I think I’ve got it licked and bounce back from a loss really quickly.

But then there are some teams that losing to hurts so much more. Gloucestershire, for obvious reasons, ditto Surrey, but for me it is Kent. Kent, Kent, Kent!

Partly for personal reasons, partly because we seem to find a different way to lose to them every time we play them and it is driving me to distraction.

I’ll try not to be too disparaging, but having had the dubious privilege of watching Kent up close and personal for the majority of the 90s and 2000s it is clear to me that as a club they are the epitome of how not to run things on and off the pitch.

It gives me a great deal of pleasure that while Somerset have turned the County Ground into something wonderful, the “Spitfire Ground” (Uggggh) is exactly what you would expect from the name as something that has evolved from the once wonderful St. Lawrence Ground. No doubt Kent will point to the financial necessity of selling off significant parcels of its land to developers but that in itself is a testament to the mismanagement of the club for many years.

On the playing side the XI that once boasted Cowdreys and Marshes, Fultons and Keys, Igglesden, Headley and Patel is now a bunch of Kolpaks, players who have failed to make it at other counties, club cricketers and Matt Henry!

Imagine Somerset not spotting that their captain was going to the IPL and would miss the first block of Championship cricket and the opening two weeks of the One-Day Cup! Kent did and asked Joe Denly at the last minute if he wouldn’t mind awfully……

So, it has given me a lot of pleasure to watch from my north-western outpost, far enough removed from the “Garden of England” to be safe, the travails of Kent and their near permanence in Division 2.

SO I ASK MYSELF EVERY SEASON, WHY CAN’T WE BEAT THEM?

They are, as I have said a second division club and so logic suggests that over a reasonable number of games, sufficient to eliminate small sample size bias, Somerset should win more head to heads than Kent. Pick a combined team from the two last night and I reckon only Denly, Billings and Henry would make the cut, and then all three would struggle in a full season in the top flight. But it isn’t so.

The nature of one-day cricket is clearly part of the reason for the better sides not winning more regularly. The shorter format is more subject to unpredictability and therefore reduces the margins between top and bottom division sides. A one-day game can be turned by one performance which in the longer format would not change the outcome of the game, a quick fifty at the end of the innings or a spell of 3-10 mid-innings.

Fundamentally this season there have not been enough match winning contributions from Somerset players while our opponents have shown up with one or two. And that needs to change.

Thinking of last night I’m struggling to rationalise how Canterbury passes as a surface suitable for first-class cricket. The pitch last evening was clearly one that meant the result was going to be decided by the toss and that in itself is not right. The weather in the South East was, by all accounts, pretty dreadful yesterday. Indeed Surrey’s game at the Oval was abandoned without a ball being bowled but, perhaps not entirely by coincidence, the game at Canterbury went ahead in front of the Sky cameras.

While I accept that the authorities should do everything to get a game on for the supporters, surely there has to be some consideration to the fairness to both teams in doing so? If, as yesterday, it is pretty certain that it is a “win toss, win game” scenario the game should not be allowed to go ahead.

Somerset’s plans for the one-day cup seem to be to have been based around a rotation policy, giving all of the seamers who have played in the championship a week or so off. I am very happy with this plan and believe it will pay dividends later in the season. Unfortunately injuries have messed up the plan to a certain extent, particularly the loss of the skipper, which has meant having to play one inexperienced player too many and the loss of an extra bowler (Tom could have been a real asset last night on that pitch). This is not to criticise Tom Banton or Ben Green, far from it, they have acquitted themselves well but compared to the majority of teams we have played we have been comparatively below full strength.

And perhaps most tellingly the opening pair have serially underperformed. The strategy of getting off to a flying start is all well and good but time after time this campaign we have been 2 down for not very many. The loss of early wickets negates the benefit of the first powerplay as Trego and Hildreth have had to consolidate. This to me is the single reason why we haven’t won the games against Sussex and Essex.

I’d like to see things swapped around with Matt Renshaw opening instead of Steven Davies who I think could develop into a quality “finisher” in the one-day game. Renshaw had proved he can bat in this format and would I believe relish the opportunity to bat through and allow others to bat around him.

All of this leaves Somerset in a parlous position to qualify for the knockouts. A position made even more disappointing after the flying start and the huge net run-rate gain from the opening two wins. Nothing less than two wins from the remaining two games will suffice. But I believe things need freshening up now if we are to have a chance of progression. A loss to Gloucester doesn’t bear thinking about but a win will send us into a shootout with the current table toppers, Hampshire next Wednesday.

Oh and by the way – I’ll be hibernating on July 8th and August 16th …