Cricket in Kent

PUBLISHED: 21:35 05 June 2011 | UPDATED: 19:30 20 February 2013

Cricket in Kent

Cricket in Kent

For fans of cricket, Kent is one of the best counties to live in. As co-founders of the sport we've built up a rich cricketing heritage and have clubs dotted right across the county at a village, town and city level

Cricket in Kent

For fans of cricket, Kent is one of the best counties to live in. As co-founders of the sport weve built up a rich cricketing heritage and have clubs dotted right across the county at a village, town and city level

There's a breathless hush in the Close tonight -

Ten to make and the match to win -

A bumping pitch and a blinding light,

An hour to play and the last man in.

And it's not for the sake of the ribboned coat,

Or the selfish hope of a season's fame,

But his Captain's hand on his shoulder smote -

'Play up! play up! and play the game!'

Vita Lampada, by Henry Newbolt

Cricket has a long history in our county; the first definite mention being a match at Chevening in 1610 between teams from the Weald and the Downs. But although this is the first recorded evidence of cricket taking place here, the sport had been played in the county long before that.

In fact, its widely believed that as early as Saxon times some form of the game was evident in both Kent and neighbouring Sussex, although at this point it was seen principally as a childrens game.

It took a while for the grown-ups to recognise that the kids were on to something and so it wasnt until the 18th century that the sport really took off. When it eventually did, the county scored another first in 1709 by participating in the inaugural inter-county match when Kent took on Surrey at The Oval.

And its the county sides home ground in Canterbury that contains one of the most unusual and iconic aspects of cricket in Kent. The St Lawrence Ground is notable for being one of only two grounds used regularly for first-class cricket that has a tree within the boundary (the other is Pietermaritzburg Oval in South Africa).

The presence of a tree within the playing area has required special local rules, such as shots being blocked by it counting as four. In the past, because of the trees height, only a handful of cricketers have ever been able to clear it and score a six: the West Indies' Learie Constantine in 1928, Middlesex's Jim Smith in 1939, and Carl Hooper in 1992.

An attack first by heartwood fungus in the 1990s and then high winds in 2005 led to the original trees eventual demise. Fortunately a new lime tree had already been planted in preparation as a replacement. Although this was originally positioned outside the playing boundary, following the death of its mighty predecessor the new tree was moved inside and onto the pitch.

Beyond the world of first-class cricket, the county is blessed with a very strong local cricketing scene and a drive through almost any village during a Saturday or Sunday afternoon will reveal the sight of people in whites engrossed in a game.

Cricket is a really popular sport here in Kent says Alan Cutts, Secretary of the Tunbridge Wells Cricket Club. Across the county people have a love for this game and I think this is illustrated by the number of people who participate in teams and the number of matches that take place week in, week out during the spring and summer.

Many of these teams are part of the Kent Cricket League, which was founded in 1970. Today its comprised of 120 teams from 61 cricket clubs across Kent. Assuming good weather (which we all know is far from guaranteed) more than 1,000 matches will take place during 2011.

One of the many clubs taking part is Tunbridge Wells. Weve actually been playing competitive cricket in the town for over two hundred years, our earliest recorded game taking place in 1782 against nearby Groombridge, says Alan.

The club originally played on the common at Mount Ephraim, a pitch where the great W.G. Grace took the crease on more than one occasion.

But time moves on and so sometimes do cricket teams. A generous grant of land from the Marquis of Abergavenny during the late 19th century meant a move to The Nevill, a location that E.W.Swanton, the great cricketing journalist, commentator and author described as no mean contender for the most delectable English Cricket Ground.

In fact, The Nevill is so impressive that it still hosts Kent county games at least twice during the season and lately spectators have been treated to big scores from players such as Rob Key, Joe Denly, and James Tredwell.

At first glance on a Sunday or Saturday afternoon, you might be mistaken into thinking that most cricket in the county is played exclusively by men in their twenties and thirties. Although this is true in many of the First XIs, the majority of clubs in Kent are very keen to encourage younger members of the community to get involved.

Our club have really tried hard to ensure that young people have an opportunity to play competitive cricket, says Adam Larking of Bapchild Cricket Club, near Sittingbourne.

For a start, there is a great family atmosphere here and kids are really part of the fabric of the club. Added to this, we also run a large youth section with one Under 18 team, two teams in Under 15, two Under 13, two Under 11 and two Under 9 teams. By running these teams children can play cricket and learn from an early age the joys of team sports. Importantly, all members of the coaching staff are ECB qualified coaches and certified to work with youngsters.

But cricket is obviously not just a sport for the boys. The county has a thriving womens scene and at a first-class level the team compete in the first division, winning the championship in 2006 and 2008.

Beyond this, there is all a real interest in the sport from younger members of the community, something that has inspired many clubs to start investing in girls cricket too.

The sport has long had a reputation of being a boys or a mans game and theres no reason why that should be the case says Alan Cutts. Our girls section was formed in 2009 and is growing rapidly. At the moment, age groups between seven and 13, (school years 2-8) compete in festivals, tournaments and friendlies, with most matches played on Sundays. Our long-term ambition is to grow the section organically and eventually to introduce womens cricket at the Club.

Although there is a rich seam of competitiveness running through the vast majority of our countys clubs, not everyone is so motivated by a need to win.

Were quite an unusual club by most standards in that we seem to place more emphasis on having fun than just winning says Colin Creasy of the Newington Cricket Club.

We have players of all ages and all abilities; some good, some not as good. A love of just playing cricket runs through the club but if that doesnt transform into success then were not that worried.

The team is unusual in other ways too. We dont play on a Saturday but manage to field three teams on a Sunday, which I think is unique in Kent and perhaps whats more unusual is the fact that we dont have a ground, says Colin.

We actually havent played in Newington for over 20 years, not since our old pavilion got burnt down and the condition of the playing area deteriorated badly. So instead, weve become cricketing nomads, playing our matches on grounds that arent our own. We probably wouldnt mind moving back to Newington but short of us suddenly coming into loads of money or finding a rich benefactor I doubt thats going to happen anytime soon.

But what they have managed to get is their very own duck! Its not as good as getting our own ground but sponsoring a duck at the Kent Life farm seemed to make perfect sense to us continues Colin.

After all, last season we got 96 ducks while playing and have three ducks on our club crest. So you could say that 'Newington', which is what weve named it, brings up our century of ducks this year.

The spring is here and with it the start of the new season. And I cant think of a better way to while away a sunny afternoon than lying back in the grass and watching a match unfold.

Further information

Kent Cricket Board

Shepherd Neame Kent Cricket League

Kent County Village League

Kent County Cricket Club

Tunbridge Wells Cricket Club

Newington Cricket Club

Bapchild Cricket Club

Cricket Facts

The longest cricket match on record took place between England and South Africa in 1939. Play began in Durban on March 3rd and continued till March 14th. It was only stopped in the end because England's boat was due to leave, forcing the teams to agree a draw.

All bowling was originally underarm. Kent cricketer John Willes is credited with popularising the roundarm bowling style that eventually became the overarm common today. According to legend he was inspired by his sister, who started bowling in this style while playing in the garden because her huge 19th Century skirt made underarm too tricky.

The earliest reference to cricket being played in England is found in evidence provided at a 1598 court case in Guildford. The court heard from a 59-year old coroner, John Derrick, who gave witness that when he attended the local free school fifty years earlier, hee and diverse of his fellows did runne and play at creckett and other plaies.

Locally, its not just huge trees that have interfered with cricket matches. In 1957, during a Kent vs. Hampshire county match a mouse effectively stopped play when its young owner ran onto the field to trap it in his hat.

The name cricket has many possible derivations. They include:

Middle Dutch krick(-e), meaning a stick

Old English cricc or cryce meaning a crutch or staff.

Middle Dutch word krickstoel, meaning a long low stool used for kneeling in church, which resembled the long low wicket with two stumps used in early cricket.

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