Not many people will look back on 2020 with too much fondness but for the players and supporters of Kent it was a largely positive campaign.
Three wins out of five in the Bob Willis Trophy meant Matt Walker’s side finished just eight points behind eventual champions Essex. Having finished fourth in the table in their first season back in Division One in 2019, Kent’s red-ball progress continued last season and look to have all bases covered.
Only Worcestershire secured more batting bonus points in 2020 than Kent, while their bowling attack will once again be spearheaded by 44-year-old Darren Stevens who is sure to relish a farewell tour of the county circuit after he was persuaded to sign a one-year contract extension at the end of last season.
Kent also progressed to the knockout stages in the Vitality Blast. Having had a flying start to their campaign, the Spitfires crucially lost the last two group matches which meant they missed out on a home quarter-final.
The subsequent defeat at the Oval against Surrey continued Kent’s miserable run at this stage of the T20 competition. That is now five straight defeats in quarter-finals for the Spitfires since they last appeared at Finals Day in 2009, a run they will be desperate to end in 2021.
Like so many counties, it has been a quiet off season in Canterbury with Kent opting to focus on retention rather than new signings. Harry Podmore, Ollie Robinson and Matt Milnes are among the players to have committed their long term future to the club. Fast bowler Nathan Gilchrist, 20, has arrived from Somerset while Calum Haggett & Ivan Thomas have been released.
Ins: Nathan Gilchrist (Somerset)
Outs: Calum Haggett & Ivan Thomas (both released)
Kent’s new vice-captain Daniel Bell-Drummond is likely to be in charge for much of the campaign and he can build on what was a stellar 2020 season. The opener was the leading run-scorer across the whole of the Vitality Blast, scoring 423 runs with a top score of 89 from 44 balls against Middlesex. He has also impressed in recent seasons in the red-ball format. The 27-year old has taken his career average to over 32 and, with Zak Crawley set to be on international duty for much of the County Championship season, Bell-Drummond’s runs will be hugely important for Kent.
One to watch
Jordan Cox made headlines across the cricketing world last summer with his remarkable innings of 238* against Sussex in the Bob Willis Trophy, which formed part of a record breaking partnership of 423 for the second wicket with Jack Leaning. Cox is one of a number keeper-batsman on the books in Canterbury but he did impress behind the stumps when given the opportunity in the T20 Blast. It promises to be an exciting year for the 20-year old.
Changes to the Kolpak deal in the post-Brexit world mean that fans favourite Heino Kuhn is classified as an overseas player for Kent. This will be the South African’s fourth season at the club having been a key part of the side which won promotion in the County Championship and reached the knockout stages of both white-ball competitions in 2018. Kent have also secured the services of West Indies fast bowler Miguel Cummins for the first eight games of the County Championship campaign. He represented Middlesex last season, taking 13 wickets in his three red-ball appearances.
How will they fare
This could be a very exciting season for Kent supporters. This young side look well led by head coach Matt Walker and can be competitive in all three formats. The Royal London Cup might provide the most realistic path to silverware as Kent will not be as disrupted as some of their rivals by the Hundred. It is a competition they have a good record in the past having reached the final in 2018 losing to Hampshire. Based on 2019 finishing positions, Kent are the strongest side in their County Championship group and they should be in the mix to top the standings. Kent are never a side to write off easily in the T20 Blast and they should be in contention for the knockout stages but in an ultra-competitive South Group they might fall short of the quarter-finals.
Opening Fixture: CC v Northants, Wantage Road, 8th-11th April
Season Odds (SkyBet)
County Championship- 10-1
T20 Blast- 10-1
Royal London Cup- 11-1