The 2021 season represented what might be labelled a ‘mixed bag’ for Kent County Cricket Club. A disappointing showing in the County Championship was redeemed by victory in the T20 Blast.
Kent return to Division One of the Championship this season as the competition reverts to the two-division, 10:8 arrangement that had been agreed upon prior to the pandemic in 2020.
With some unexpected late-March sun, Kent enjoyed a few days of pre-season preparation as they looked to get up to speed for an assault on Division One. The county’s first warm-up game saw them face off against fellow Division One side Warwickshire. The game proved adequate early season match practice for Kent, with both openers, Ben Compton, a new addition to the side, and Daniel Bell-Drummond, notching stylish half-centuries before retiring not out.
An exciting summer of cricket can be expected on the south east coast, with additions such as Jackson Bird (County Championship – April to May) having been added to an already promising looking squad. Qais Ahmad, the youthful Afghan leg-spinner, is returning this season and having contributed to the success in the Blast last season, he will be hoping for a similar impact this summer too.
Bird, 35, has taken 421 first class wickets and Kent will be hoping the Australian will provide some impetus to their early season pace attack. Kent will also hope the recent signing of South African spinning all-rounder George Linde on a two-year deal will suitably back up the likes of Matt Milnes, Harry Podmore, Nathan Gilchrist and Darren Stevens in the bowling department.
The batting department will hope to have been bolstered by a number of incomings, not least Netherlands and Essex legend Ryan ten Doeschate as a batting coach. He will be looking to ensure Jack Leaning builds on his impressive form from last season, as well as working with the likes of Crawley and Ollie Robinson to further their development.
As expected, Sam Billings will continue in his role as captain across all formats, with Bell-Drummond filling when the England international is unavailable at the start of the season when he is away on IPL duty with the Kolkata Knight Riders.
In white ball cricket Kent will be looking to do much of what they did last summer and the season looks set to be a strong one for Kent CCC, with the county possessing the ability to challenge on a number of fronts. More will become clear when they line up against Essex on April 7 for their summer curtain-raiser.
Since arriving from Yorkshire in October 2019, Jack Leaning has enjoyed two prosperous years as a Kent CC player. A 220* in only his second game for the announced him to the Kent faithful and he backed that up further that summer sharing a 407-run stand with Jordan Cox in 2020’s Bob Willis Trophy.
His fruitful first year was backed up by a stellar 2021 season that saw him help Kent with their first trophy in 14 years with success in the Blast.
It can be safely assumed that Leaning will be central to any success that Kent might enjoy this season. With 745 runs at an average of 46.56 last season in the Championship, the Yorkshire-born batsman will be looking to hit the ground running once again this time out.
Thursday April 7-10, Essex County Cricket Club, Cloud FM County Ground, Chelmsford
Season odds (Sky Bet)
County Championship – 10/1
T20 Blast – 10/1
Royal London one-day cup – 9/1