Kent; rich with tradition, icons and cricketing folklore

Cricket is believed to have originated when kids engaged in ball games around Kent, Sussex and Surrey. These three counties were the first centers of the sport.

The first ever First-Class game took place in 1773 between Kent and Surrey and since then there had been several failed attempts to form a club to represent Kent.

Eventually, in 1859, Kent County Cricket Club was formed and club made its First-Class debut in 1870. Kent were admitted to the Championship 20 years later. The history of the club is little complicated as teams played under the name of Kent prior to the formation of the club in 1859.

Kent maybe not a big club like Middlesex, Surrey, Yorkshire or Warwickshire, but they are certainly one of the most influential with a colourful history.

The County won three Championships before World War I. Their most successful period came in the 1970s when they won three titles including back-to-back ones 1977 and 1978. There’s been nothing since then although there have been a couple of limited overs titles.

Kent have finished runners-up in the County Championship 12 times with the most recent being in 2004.

The women’s team of course is a strong force having won the Women’s County Championship a record eight times with the most recent one being in 2019.

The 1970s can be categorized as Kent’s most successful era. This was the period when Sir Colin Cowdrey and Mike Denness were at the height of their prowess.

Apart from Cowdrey, the first man to play 100 Test matches, the other most notable player from Kent is Derek Underwood, England’s most successful spin bowler to date.

Kent has a great traditon with wicketkeepers. While Yorkshire may have produced the greatest number of wicketkeepers for the England Test side, the ones from Kent are extremely skilful. Edward Tylecote goes in history not only because he was part of the   England side that won the first ever Ashes, but he also became the first wicketkeeper in history to score a Test half-century.

The first wicketkeeper to score a Test hundred Henry Wood was also from Kent while Dick Lilley  was the first superstar behind the stumps having played 35 Test matches. Les Ames was another keeper with beautiful hands and had the distinction of 100 dismsisals and scoring 1000 runs in three consecutive seasons.

Kent’s wicketkeeping talents were so good that at one point they had three England keepers with Godfrey Evans and William Evet joining Ames.

Alan Knott is by far considered the best wicketkeeper produced by England and all his life he had dedicated to Kent. His 269 dimissals in Tests is still an England record, even 40 years after retirement,

Cowdrey, Knott, Underwood and Ames all have stands named after them at Canterbury and so does Frank Woolley, who represented the club in First Class cricket for a record 32 seasons.

Colin Blythe is another Kent legend in an earlier era. The slow left-arm spinner took 100 wickets in every season from 1902 to 1914 but his career was cut short when he died in action during the war. He wasn’t the only player to die in action during the war. Eleven other Kent players lost their lives fighting for their country in World War I.

Blythe still has the Kent record for best bowling figures in an innings having taken ten for 30 against Northamptonshire in 1907.

Darren Stevens is one of the county’s modern day greats. At 47, the all-rounder defies age and logic pulling off headlines. His First-Class association with Kent lasted for 18 seasons in which he produced 585 wickets, an all-time record for Kent.

Oh, that’s not all. He also scored 13,134 First Class runs for Kent and only Rob Key with 15,943 runs has scored more runs for the club in their cherished history.

Stevens doesn’t seem to be done with Kent yet in shorter formats of the game although he retired from First Class cricket in 2022. When it is all done, you can be sure that a stand will be put up in the name of the County’s greatest all-rounder ever.

Kent also have had some famous names as their overseas signings. Asif Iqbal, the former Pakistan captain is the most significant of them all having represented the County for 17 years, a record for an overseas signing. During those fruitful years at Canterbury, he captained Kent for the County Championship once.

West Indian Carl Hooper also had a long association with Kent.

The county’s other impressive overseas signing was Aravinda de Silva. With Hooper unaviable for the 1995 season due to international commitments, Kent signed the Sri Lankan and he had a memorable season. He helped the County end a 17-year streak without a trophy and with a bit more help from his mates could have won the one-day double as Kent lost the Benson & Hedges final to Lancashire at Lord’s where he made a hundred. He also produced 1600 runs in the County Championship.

Graham Cowdrey, son of Lord Colin and part of the Kent side in the 1990s said. “I cannot believe any player, anywhere, has been so popular. When Aravinda packed his bags, he hugged each of us and I have never known a professional sports team so close to tears.”

Iconic cricketers like Rahul Dravid and Muttiah Muralitharan played a season of County Cricket for Kent.

It was at Kent Dravid met John Wright, the club’s coach. Dravid, India’s captain in waiting, recommended Wright to the Board of Control for Cricket in India and the New Zealander went on to become India’s first ever overseas coach.

Kent’s Canterbury cricket ground although small in size with a capacity of 15,000 it is world famous for the lime tree that stood inside the boundary for over 200 years. It was blown away during a storm a few years ago.

Kent also occasionally use Beckenham and Tunbridge Wells as their home grounds. Tunbridge Wells of couse is part of the cricketing folklore having witnessed Kapil Dev’s epic 175 not out in the 1983 World Cup.