- Thu Jun 21, 2018 8:23 am
Here's my full report on yesterday at TW (the only day I could get there!)
Spent yesterday at the Nevill Ground, Tunbridge Wells 50 years on from my first day of country cricket also there (not quite to the day - it was 22nd June that year for Kent vs Sussex!).
The journey from my home on the east Kent coast was even worse than expected - nearly 2 hours 45 minutes including a quick stop to pick up some lunch en route, not helped by the fact that Tunbridge Wells have closed a major road to the ground for repairs: the last 3 miles took nearly 55 minutes to negotiate!
Still, sitting on the back row of seats in front of the pavilion with only a small, low fence separating us from some of the players waiting to bat (or, increasingly, having batted briefly!) - we were careful to moderate our comments about some of the stroke play as the wickets to fall. We could enjoy the view across the ground, bathed at points during the day in sunlight, then in shade as the clouds moved quickly across the sky. The crowd was, to my eyes, pretty good for a weekday not in the school holidays. The only thing missing were the vibrant reds etc of the rhododendrons - the match was a few weeks too late for that.
There is a feeling that cricket at TW is always under threat - last year the match came within a week or so of being moved unceremoniously to county headquarters at Canterbury. The sight of the Canterbury groundsman at TW yesterday, plus the green tinge to the pitch, gave rise to concerns that this year again the pitch would be an issue. Traditionally TW is a good batsman's wicket - why, therefore, did Warwickshire choose to insert the home team?
It soon became clear: two wickets fell early before Kuhn and Denly (Kent's best batsmen this season) added 50. But even they weren't in full control and when Kuhn fell for 39 (a failure by his high standards, though the ball did appear to keep rather low), and Zak Crawley, who needs a score, just 2 balls later, Kent wobbled on 66-4. Denly and Stevens rebuilt the innings to take it to 117 before Stevens, who has only made one score of more than 50 all season, fell to a ball that appeared to move late. From 117-4 before that wicket, Kent limped to 197 all out. Only Denly with an unusually slow 59 in just short of 3 hours showed the technique and determination to cope with the moving ball. The Warwickshire seamers shared the wickets with the dangerous Barker taking 5-32, cleaning up the tail.
197, again no batting points, looked a poor score. But one of the Kent players, when asked what a good score was, said he couldn't be sure. The wicket was doing a bit (though not too much). How right he was. Warwickshire were dismissed after tea in less than 36 overs for 125 with only 3 players reaching double figures. Indeed the final total could have been much worse as they were tottering on 71-8 before Trott (as one would expect) and the young seamer Brookes added 54, with Brookes showing a good technique and level of skill as a batsman. The star bowler of Kent's season, Matt Henry with 4 wickets (the first and last two), Stevens (two) and Harry Podmore (a career best 4-26) shared the wickets. Jonathan Trott, in his last season, showed his skill and mental toughness, in scoring 51* in a bit under 2 1/2 hours. Batting for a second time in the day, Kent finished as 4-0 in 2 overs.
A fascinating day's cricket, but a world away from the crash bang wallop of the 50 over games being played by England at the moment, let alone Tom Harrison's proposed 'hit & giggle' 100 ball franchise tournament scheduled for 2020. And yet I'd much prefer days like these than the slog fests apparently so beloved of the ECB these days.
One last point - the fact that 20 wickets fell on the day, and the appearance of the Canterbury groundsman on the ground seemed to confirm rumours that the wicket was changed very late on before the start of the game, and for the second year running the ground authorities failed to produce a wicket suitable for country cricket. Could this be the last game at TW? I really hope not, but fear it could be.