Tuesday 12 April 2011

Great start but weaknesses are there to be seen

When I saw Rob Key had been dismissed in the first few minutes of Kent's first game of the season I felt a sense of foreboding at the months that lie ahead. Losing your Captain for a duck in the first over of the campaign is not the beginning you would like. However, cricket in its most important form is played over days, not overs. Kent's recovery was built on the shoulders of Sam Northeast. The youngster was given his head throughout last season, come what may, and I'm sure he would admit it was a very steep learning curve - too steep in fact. So to get off the mark with a century on the first day of the season must have been a real boost for the lad. Nobody else really got going for Kent on a sporting wicket and 247 might have seemed a little short until Kent's bowlers got going in the late afternoon.
That Darren Stevens should take six-for was a more than pleasant surprise. I said in the preview of the season last week that Stevens must surely be due a call-up to the England ODI side - his ability with bat and ball has long been overlooked by the selectors. However, the fact that Stevens is opening the bowling in first-class games should ring alarm bells for Kent fans. When you are reduced to seeing a medium-pacer take the new ball then you will ultimately run in to problems - maybe not now, but at some point this is a weakness that will be exposed. Stevens got the ball to jag around a bit and he was lethal on Friday. When the wickets dry out and get harder, though, Kent will be found wanting unless they find some pace from somewhere.
In the second dig Key got some important crease-time, but Joe Denly failed once again. It is difficult to understand what has happened to Denly's form since his England debut. He has undoubted quality, but something is missing. I hope he finds his form in the coming weeks - he's a quality player and he forms a good opening pair with Key, as long as they can both contribute in the way we know they can. It was no surprise to see Martin Van Jaarsveld among the runs and, too, Darren Stevens making a decent 30. Geraint Jones' twin failures may also get the skipper a little worried - Kent's successes in recent seasons, such as there have been, have largely included good runs from the wicketkeeper.
Essex looked well set early on in their chase but Stevens and James Tredwell combined to rip the heart out of the batting with wickets falling regularly. Going in to the final day, however, it was very much up for grabs. At this time of the year you would expect some early morning moisture and for the ball to do a little. Robbie Joseph coming to the fore in such conditions is very encouraging. We know Joseph can be quick. Kent need him to stay fit and find a good rhythm - if he does so then our boys might just be difficult to beat.
All in all it was a very satisfactory start to the season. A win early on will give the lads confidence. Let's hope it will breed more success as we move on through April towards the Summer.

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