Tawanda Muyeye and Zak Crawley provide a glimpse into the club’s future while a longtime legend says goodbye.
Kent 405 for 7 (Muyeye 85, Crawley 79, Robinson 52, Aldridge 4-83) lead Somerset 202 (Goldsworthy 94, Gilchrist 6-61) by 203 runs
It was appropriate for Kent’s reassurance of its Division One standing at the conclusion of Stevo Day. In the first two days of their final encounter at Canterbury, Kent defeated Somerset for 202 runs in 64 overs before answering with 405 for 7 runs in 88 overs to earn the eight bonus points they needed to stay above Hampshire and Warwickshire in the standings. On Tuesday at 5:35 p.m., they left the field due to poor lighting after learning from Edgbaston that the hosts had declared on 272 for 4, handing up three batting points.
By the time, stumps were finally called at 5:55 p.m., neither the Kent dressing room nor those few who had braved the September weather were really celebrating. The poor performance of the red ball this season has shocked both players and spectators. Nevertheless, they have performed admirably under pressure. As things stand, they still have a chance to place fifth.
Any emotion there today was reserved for Darren Stevens, who received a heartfelt farewell at the lunch break. By all accounts, he was able to control his tears. as anticipated.
It takes a lot to evoke that type of feeling from the great man, according to those at Kent County Cricket Club who have known him for all or most of his 18 seasons with the club. Perhaps because we become trailer as we age, particularly at age 46, it has only gotten worse. In addition, throughout his final years at Canterbury, Stevens has rallied against all forms of vulnerability.
However, the eyes did fill. Once more as predicted. Tuesday’s lunch break featured a guard of honor consisting of current Kent players and employees that Stevens passed through. Stevens was honored with a framed replica of his number three jersey, which will be retired, and a movie highlighting some of his career accomplishments, including this summer’s Royal London Cup victory, which would have gone longer than the break’s allocated 40 minutes. The 1,042 fans in attendance, who by this point were practically falling over the hoardings along the Pavilion End to get a little closer to their hero as he said his final farewell, were then greeted after he had hugged friends and family on the field.
Stevens asserts that even if this marks the end of an era, he might still have persisted and that his current status isn’t exactly retirement. And while there are still many supporters in this county and elsewhere who think this specific exodus was premature, it was difficult to watch Kent conduct themselves today without realizing a new generation is fulfilling their potential.
A notable victory over Hampshire last week to ensure their survival has been firmly built upon. In spite of missing out on a hat-trick with his first ball of the day, Nathan Gilchrist (age 22) went on to get the last Somerset wicket, Lewis Goldsworthy, for 94 and a career-high six to help Somerset defeat the visitors for 202. Tawanda Muyeye (21) and Zak Crawley (24), Kent’s third century partnership between openers this season, having 149 runs between them in 30 overs, up till lunch, 400 was reached and relegation was successfully avoided from captain Jack Leaning (28), an impressive half-century from soon-to-be Durham-bound Ollie Robinson (28), and darts from newly signed from Nottinghamshire Joey Evison (20) and Hamidullah Qadri (21).
Just in time for Stevens’ more personal audience in the Les Ames stand. Before moving over to join his friends, Crawley made a joke about the man, saying, “He might have had a couple of beers to loosen him up and give a beautiful speech.”
The opening 50 runs, which took just 59 deliveries owing to nine fours, including five in the space of six deliveries, and Crawley’s knock of 79 from 102 deliveries, established the tone. It appeared to be a continuation of the form he finally rediscovered during the most recent Test match, which he won by a score of 69 against South Africa at the Kia Oval while playing unbeaten.
It was noteworthy how much the attendance decreased from the first to the second session. Many had merely shown up to say goodbye to Stevens before continuing with their day. Cricket and life both move on. As will Kent as they enter a new Division One cricket season.