Summary/description of season
2023 for the Men of Kent was something of a tough arduous slog, but finished on a high as they avoided relegation from County Championship Division One on the last day of the season and performed semi-creditably in the white ball competitions. There are some extenuating reasons for their struggles, considering that the club used a staggering 26 players in the County Championship, and 30 across all competitions as injuries, international call-ups, and the Hundred hit them harder than many other clubs, most notably when they had to make two last minute loan signings to get a competitive team out for the Championship game against Notts in late July.
The bowling stocks were hit particularly hard. That is the core reason why they struggled in the red ball format, with only two bowlers taking more than 20 first class wickets in 2023 – Australian seamer Wes Agar who took 21 in his 6 Championship appearances, and Matt Quinn who also took 21 in 9 games. They missed the likes of Nathan Gilchrist who was one of the club’s best bowlers in 2022.
Other than all-rounder Joey Evison, no frontline bowler managed to play 10 red ball games or more. This resulted in the club regularly dipping into the overseas market to supplement the bowling stocks with the likes of Agar, Indian international leg spinner Yuzvendra Chahal, and Indian seamer Arshdeep Singh all joining on short term stints. Such a turnover of players would hit any club hard, and one would have to feel sorry for the medical team at the club who must have been run off their feet.
The batting unit also suffered a high turnover of players for the same reasons as above, so it was not surprising that no one reached the magic 1000 first class runs mark in 2023. Only three front line batters played all 14 games, with Ben Compton topping the run charts with 735 runs at an average of 30.62, a disappointing return after his brilliant 2022 season where he managed over 2000 runs in all first-class cricket. The mercurial Daniel Bell-Drummond topped the averages across all three competitions but will look back on what might have been after suffering a hamstring injury shortly after making 300 not out against Northants, so was not able to cash in on that brilliant form. England’s Zak Crawley made some exceptional contributions when available, with a couple of 100’s, and talented young batter Tawanda Muyeye also scored his maiden first class hundred. Bell-Drummond and Crawley apart, many of the senior batters such as Joe Denly and Sam Billings struggled, Billings to the extent that he resigned the captaincy and dropped himself from the Championship side and will need to improve in 2024.
The Blast was also a frustrating experience as Kent narrowly missed out on the quarter finals after finishing 5th in the South Group with a 50/50 win loss record. The batting unit was carried by Bell-Drummond, and supported by Jordan Cox and Joe Denly, but there was little else of substance after them. The bowling unit showed some promise, with Grant Stewart leading the attack alongside Michael Hogan, contributing 46 wickets between them. The rest of the bowlers did not provide the same incisiveness, but the likes of Freddie Klaasen, Wes Agar, George Linde, and Jack Leaning offered control. Overseas T20 signing, Australian seamer Kane Richardson was disappointing, taking only nine wickets in seven games, and going at nearly 11 runs per over.
The One Day Cup was a similar story to the Blast, as Kent narrowly missed out on the knockout stages. Bell-Drummond led from the front again with bat, making 50 or more in four of his five appearances. Jack Leaning also had a productive time of it with 380 runs at 54.28 and making his highest List A score of 137 not out against Essex, while Ben Compton provided his usual solidity at the top of the order with 331 runs at 47.28. The bowlers were led by England leggie Matt Parkinson who joined on loan for the One Day Cup and formed a useful spin partnership with Hamidullah Qadri as they took 31 wickets between them. The competition also saw the emergence of another Denly, as Jadyn, cousin of Joe, took his first steps in professional cricket and showed some glimpses of his potential through his left arm spin and middle order batting.
LV=CC: 8th – Division One (relegated)
Vitality Blast: 5th – Southern Group
ODC: 4th – Group A
Leading Run scorers
LV=CC: Ben Compton – 735 runs at 30.62
Vitality Blast: Daniel Bell-Drummond – 600 runs at 60.00 (SR 148.51)
ODC: Daniel Bell-Drummond– 390 runs at 78.00
Leading Wicket Takers:
LV=CC: Wes Agar – 21 wickets at 28.33
Matt Quinn – 21 wickets at 33.09
Vitality Blast: Grant Stewart – 24 wickets at 17.70 (10.20 runs per over)
ODC: Matt Parkinson – 17 wickets at 18.47
Player of the Season:
Daniel Bell-Drummond – Overall – 1569 @ 56.03
The classy top order batter topped the averages in all three competitions this year, with the peak being his 300 not out against Northants in July. His unfortunately timed hamstring injury robbed him of some rhythm and the chance to cash in on a rare period of form after a couple of poor seasons previously. He is an exciting and classical player to watch, and if the stars align for him would be exactly the type of player who could succeed at international level in the modern era.
The number of players the club used in 2023 meant it was difficult to identify one breakthrough player as very few were consistently available across the whole season, and the youngsters who stepped into the first XI did not really do anything especially noteworthy to stand out from the crowd.
Could have done better:
Sam Billings – The England keeper-batter started the year as Club Captain and turned down an IPL deal to play more red ball cricket. However, the move did not work out as he might have hoped as he managed only 92 runs in 6 games at a paltry average of 9.20. His poor form led to him dropping himself from the Championship side and resigning from the club captaincy at the end of the season. He fared little better in the Blast, scoring only 221 runs across 14 games, and did not provide the sort of explosive and inventive hitting which he is most known for.
Need to work on:
In the red ball game, the bowling is in dire need of strengthening, especially in the seam department. Michael Hogan has now retired, but there are rumours that Wes Agar may return in 2024 and he will be a much-needed addition but will need more than him to push up the Division One table. The signings of seamer George Garrett from Warwickshire, and Matt Parkinson from Lancashire is a promising start.
In the white ball game, the club is not far away from challenging for the trophies and lacks an experienced overseas pro in the bowling unit. The addition of Parkinson will help, but more will be needed.
After 2023, perhaps the best investment they can make is in another physio room!
The club have already been active in the transfer market, announcing the signings of George Garrett and Matt Parkinson which will boost the bowling stocks significantly. It will also be interesting to see what moves they make in the overseas market.
However, they will be busy looking for a new club captain after Sam Billings stepped down, with the smart money on Jack Leaning stepping up into the role after leading the side in the County Championship. Whether they will choose to split the captaincy across formats remains to be seen.
In other news, Simon Cook has become the new Director of Cricket after the retirement of Paul Downton, stepping up from bowling coach.
Season Rating: 6/10