Kent have made the long journey north to Derby this week, in search of another victory to push towards promotion to the first division of the Specsavers County Championship.
Kent currently sit in third place just nine points behind second placed Sussex, who travel to Middlesex this week for a tough fixture, which Kent will be hoping sees them gain few points. Derbyshire on the other hand sit in sixth place, 13 points behind Middlesex, so will be hoping for a victory and Sussex doing them a favour, helping them overtake Middlesex and leapfrog them into fifth position.
It has been a week of change and announcements at Derbyshire. The drawn out saga of Ben Slater’s move to Nottinghamshire was finally made official, with him leaving on loan until the end of the season before making the move permanent in the winter.
To replace Slater they have brought in young Tom Lace, on loan from Middlesex, to open the batting for the rest of the season – a player who is talked about highly by Angus Fraser and will be looking to raise his stock further with a successful loan spell. It will also be a first sighting for home fans of Sean Irvine, on loan from Hampshire, who will be looking to improve on his first outing for the club that saw him score only three runs across the innings.
Kent will be buoyed by the return of Matt Henry as their overseas player, who was very successful earlier in the season for them. They may need a little pick-me-up after the disappointment of missing out on a Vitality Blast semi final spot, losing to Lancashire on what captain Sam Billing described as a “Snot heap” of a pitch.
It is doubtful he will be finding a “snot heap” of a pitch in Derby this week. More likely a pitch that will favour seam bowlers with hopefully pace and bounce.
The bookies make Kent favourites for the match. It’s easy to see why and very difficult to look past a victory for the visiting side. They have been far more consistent in red ball cricket than their hosts this season, and only a fool would bet against them prevailing in Derby this week.
However, a fool and his money are easily parted and, after the disappointment of losing in the quarterfinal, it may be a perfect time for Derbyshire to claim a victory in the Specsavers County Championship.
Every team has one: that player that performs week in week out but never fully gets the recognition they deserve and in Tony Palladino that is exactly what Derbyshire have. He has taken 25 wickets at 22.08 and has given his captain control as well, being the only bowler with an economy rate of fewer than three runs an over. Palladino also contributes with the bat and provides useful lower order runs, having scored 214 at an average of 26.75 this season, often supporting the top order batsmen when the innings looked to be in freefall and allowing Derbyshire to post more competitive totals.
In this day and age, where youth is pushed and I feel I could be many a player’s dad, it is refreshing to see a player four years older than me still playing a pivotal role in a professional sports team. Darren Stevens aged 42 still takes wickets (26 @ 20.27) and scores runs (183 @ 20.33) for his side and when he is successful, invariably Kent are successful. He also offers a more experienced head (I didn’t say old) and cricketing brain to his young captain Sam Billings. His main threat will be with the ball, and if Derbyshire can keep him out then their chances will increase greatly.
Derbyshire’s new loan signing from Middlesex, Tom Lace comes straight into the squad and will in all probability open the batting with skipper Billy Godleman. Seamer Ravi Rampaul is passed fit after missing most of the Sussex match last week with breathing difficulties, and should take his place in a four man pace attack with Hardu Viljoen, Tony Palladino and overseas star Lockie Ferguson.
Of the 13 named I expect Dal and Qadri to miss out, unless the pitch looks dry and then Qadri should play instead of one of the four seamers.
Derbyshire squad: B Godleman (c), M Critchley, A Dal, S Ervine, L Ferguson, H Hosein (wk), A Hughes, T Lace, W Madsen, T Palladino, H Qadri, R Rampaul, H Viljoen
Kent welcome back overseas paceman Matt Henry, who took 49 wickets in his 6 Specsavers County Championship games in his first stint with the club earlier in the season. Captain Billings has spin cover in the side if the pitch is dry, with Joe Denly and Adam Riley, however if only one is required then I predict Riley will be carrying drinks with the spin bowling being left to Denly’s ever improving leg spin.
Harry Podmore had a spell on loan at the end of last season with Derbyshire, and will know his way around the 3aaa County ground, as will the afore mentioned Henry who spent last season as the Falcons’ T20 overseas signing.
Kent squad: S Billings (c/wk), D Bell-Drummond, Z Crawley, J Denly, S Dickson, H Kuhn, M Henry, H Podmore, A Riley, O Robinson, D Stevens, G Stewart, I Thomas.
Weather and conditions
The weather looks set fair for the first three days of the match, with the chance of some showers on Saturday, so both sides will be looking to wrap up victories before then, especially Kent who are pushing for promotion. There has been plenty of rain around in the area in the period leading up to the match, so I would imagine the pitch will be a bowlers’ friend and there will be no need for the umpires to carry a coin to the middle to decide who will bat and bowl first.
Date: 29 August 2018 to 1stSeptember
Ground: 3aaa County Ground, Derby
Odds (SkyBet): Derbyshire 6/4 Kent 8/15