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County Championship: Kent beginning to reap rewards from winter recruitment

PUBLISHED: 08:45 25 April 2018

Heino Kuhn has signed for Kent as a Kolpak player (pic: Adam Davy/PA)

Heino Kuhn has signed for Kent as a Kolpak player (pic: Adam Davy/PA)

PA Archive/PA Images

Winter arrivals Heino Kuhn and Matt Henry helped Kent beat Durham in Division Two

Kent’s winter recruitment programme paid big dividends over the weekend when overseas signings Heino Kuhn and Matt Henry combined in force to sweep their new side to a first Specsavers County Championship win of the 2018 campaign.

Kuhn, the former South Africa Test bat and Kent’s new Kolpak signing, hit his maiden Championship half-century and followed with an unbeaten 36 to help secure a comfortable two-day win over Division Two rivals Durham in Chester-le-Street.

Yet it was Black Caps strike bowler Henry, who spent much of the winter on the periphery of the New Zealand Test side, who really caught the eye by taking five for 28 and seven for 45 to finish with career-best match figures of 12 for 73 – his maiden 10-wicket match haul in 48 first-class matches.

In his first two Championship starts Henry, a 26-year-old right-armer who hails from Christchurch, has mopped up 19 wickets at an amazing average of 7.52 with his athletic, yet skiddy brand of full-length pace bowling.

After only four days’ cricket Henry has already surpassed last season’s wicket-haul of 13 taken by Kiwi countryman Adam Milne in his five Championship starts for Kent. Moreover, Henry’s tally of 19 wickets would have taken him to third in Kent’s overall bowling averages for the entire summer of 2017.

“I’ve got a job to do so I just get out there and get on with it,” explained Henry, ever the pragmatist. “I like to challenge batsmen on the front foot and it’s something we’ve discussed doing this season as an attack.

“As a bowling group we’ve tried to show patience and not go searching for wickets. We know it’s all about putting enough balls in the right areas to get our results.”

Henry admitted that the five-wicket home defeat to Gloucestershire in Kent’s opening four-day fixture proved a set-back - but said that the side’s good spirit, coupled with a decent gameplan, bore fruit at The Emirates Riverside.

He said: “We knew we weren’t far off against Gloucestershire and that there was a lot in that wicket in Canterbury, but we didn’t predict it would go the way it went in Durham either.

“We didn’t anticipate those kinds of wickets falling because it didn’t look like it would have heaps of bounce and it didn’t have that traditional green look to it. We knew that we would have to be disciplined and thankfully the wickets came our way.”

After winning only eight Test caps since his New Zealand debut at Lord’s four years ago, Henry described the decision to join Kent and play more cricket as a “total no-brainer”.

“I’ve been running a lot of drinks over our summer months during our Test and ODI series against England and haven’t played as much cricket as I would have liked,” he explained.

“So to come here early season and get back on the park was very appealing. I just wanted to play, get some overs under the belt and with Kent, I already knew a couple of the guys here and that made it an exciting prospect as well. I’m hoping to play as much red and white-ball cricket as my time here allows.”

Henry added: “I’m good mates with Tommy Latham who played with Kent a couple of seasons ago and he told me they have a great bunch of guys here. Already, I’ve felt that there’s a great vibe and buzz amongst the squad to move forward together this summer.

“I had a big chat too with Sam Billings while he was touring New Zealand and he convinced me that this is a very exciting time for Kent cricket and I’m really glad I took the opportunity to come here and get on board because I think it’s going to be a fun summer.”

Kent return to action on Saturday when they welcome touring side Pakistan to The Spitfire Ground, St Lawrence for a four-day friendly starting from 11am.

Their next Championship match is against Glamorgan in Cardiff starting on Friday week, May 4.

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