Kent County Cricket Club heads into 2020 celebrating one hundred and fifty years since its formation. The famous White Horse of Kent is the centre of a new emblem that has been designed to commemorate the milestone, which sadly may prove to be the height of celebrations given the current global pandemic.
Perhaps it would have been more fitting to turn the famous horse black for one year, given Kent’s emergence as a dark horse in the challenge for the Championship title last year. Kent were widely tipped for relegation in 2019 but the southern county returned a very respectable fourth-place, finishing very safe from any threat of relegation.
A similar, if not better finish can be expected for many seasons to come given an ever-improving English contingent. Harry Podmore and Matt Milnes finished with over fifty wickets apiece, both have benefitted from having the great Allan Donald as bowling coach. Donald has since departed the role but cricket fans across the country should expect to see both seamers towards the top end of the wickets table for many seasons to come.
Sam Billings excelled in his first season as club captain after stepping back from IPL commitments, the extra responsibility appearing to have a positive impact on his batting in particular.
Ollie Robinson and Zak Crawley both enhanced their reputations, the latter earning a maiden Test call up for England’s tours to New Zealand and South Africa. The 22-year-old was not expected to appear at any point in the winter but ended up collecting four Test caps following Rory Burns’ freak injury whilst playing football. The opening batsman particularly impressed towards the end of the series against South Africa, as he achieved a maiden Test fifty.
Crawley’s efforts may prove fatal for the England career of fellow team mate Joe Denly, however, as Crawley is expected to slot in at number three when England’s Test summer gets underway.
Jack Leaning, Hamidullah Qadri, and Tim Groenewald have all made their way to the south-east at various points of the winter, and all three players look to be canny signings. Leaning struggled during his last couple of seasons at Yorkshire but remains a prolific county batsman. Qadri adds his name to the list of young English talent at Canterbury while Groenewald’s wealth of experience will add depth to the seam-bowling ranks. Groenewald will take up the role left by Mitchell Claydon, who has left to join Sussex.
Elsewhere, Simon Cook and Michael Yardy have joined as bowling and batting coaches, respectively.
Kent’s bowling attack could’ve been one of the strongest on the circuit with the addition of Matt Henry: the New Zealand international initially signed to play red-ball cricket but has since had his contract terminated by mutual consent. Henry spearheaded Kent’s attack during a hugely successful promotion-winning campaign in 2018.
Kent concluded their winter business by re-signing Mohammad Nabi for the T20 Blast.
Finally, the career of Darren Stevens could come to a subdued ending, depending on how much of the season is played. The 38-year-old was due to be released at last season’s end, but a remarkable spike in form meant the fan-favorite was rewarded with a one-year extension. It seems unlikely the all-rounder will receive a similar deal for next year given the devastating impact the global pandemic will have on each county’s finances.