A wonderful day at Kent County Cricket’s Canterbury ground, as my son Ben was match mascot for the day as Kent faced the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy winners Pakistan in the opening fixture of their visit to these shores. During a three month spell from April to June, the tourists will also be playing two Tests against England, plus a range of formats against Northamptonshire, Ireland, Leicestershire and Scotland.
Ben had met meant to be playing for Langley School for Boys against Sir Joseph Williamson’s Mathematical School in Rochester yesterday, but the unseasonal heavy rain put paid to that. However, the two of us stayed overnight in Canterbury as planned, at the very hospitable Premier Inn, and early this morning we drove over to the county ground where we hooked up with my elder brother Ken and his partner Debbie in the nearby Simon Langton Girls’ Grammar School car park. We then walked the short distance to the St Lawrence main entrance, where we met my wife Julie and stepdaughter Lisa who had travelled from Bromley South by train.
My family group soon met the delightful Heidi Coleman, Kent CC Fundraising Manager, and we settled in at the Lime Tree Cafe. Prior to the formal start to the match, we also met the charming Paul Downtown, former England wicketkeeper who is currently Kent’s Director of Cricket and the County’s big-hearted head coach, Matt Walker. Ken had brought along copies of items of memorabilia from the famous Bodyline tour, featuring Les Ames, and gave these to Paul for passing to the County’s archivists.
At half past ten, Heidi came over and collected Ben so he could be introduced to the Kent Captain, Joe Denly, and Pakistan captain and wicketkeeper batsman, Sarfraz Ahmed. This group made their way to the match strip for the coin toss (with a 10p piece!) and a series of pictures was taken by official photographer Sarah Ansell, some of which were subsequently published by the BBC and on major Asian news sites.
Once the match was underway, our family toured the ground, taking in the players’ picture gallery and noting Les Ames received cap number 88 in 1927, amongst the display of the County’s legends. After stopping by the shop to purchase cricket jerseys, we took up residence in the ground floor bar in the Leslie Ames stand. One of the stewards, upon hearing we were relatives of Les, asked Ken and I if we would like to visit the traditional scoreboard upstairs. This proved a special moment as we were able to see the fascinating workings of the oldest part of the ground.
The match itself proved a rain-hit affair, which totally stymied any hope Pakistan had of acclimatising to local spring conditions, with the sides playing out an inevitable draw. Kent had impressively reduced Pakistan to 168 all out on the opening day (with Will Gidman taking 5 for 47 in 15 overs) and the home side had ended the first day at 39 for 1. With no play possible on the Sunday, Monday or Tuesday morning, it was only on the last afternoon that Sean Dickson and Joe Denly, captaining Kent in Sam Billings’ absence, registered a superb partnership of 160. Denly displaying his leadership qualities by closing with an unbeaten 113 (including 14 fours and 3 sixes). Dickson eventually fell to spinner Shadab Khan on 74 and once two more wickets were taken, the sides left the field with honours even following 49 overs of play.
A great day and a huge thanks from all of our family goes to Heidi and the team for their superb, endless hospitality.