Billings reflects on 'monumental effort' from Kent
PUBLISHED: 11:15 04 October 2018
PA Wire/PA Images
Hop County had successful season in all formats, even if they missed out on silverware
Despite missing out on winning the Specsavers County Championship Division Two title, Kent have secured their main ambition of clinching promotion to put an end to their eight-year stay in the championship’s lower tier.
Though the season ended with a disappointing innings defeat to Warwickshire, the deserved champions, Kent can be proud of their campaign having secured 10 wins in 14 starts — the most by any team in the division and equal only with Surrey, the overall county champions.
Promotion topped a remarkable summer for the Hop County who, under their first-season skipper Sam Billings, also reached the Royal London One-Day Cup final and the Vitality Blast T20 quarter-finals.
“Winning promotion has been a monumental effort from everyone within the club,” said Billings. “It’s been a squad effort, a lot of guys playing for each other and everyone within the club, on the field and off it, all moving in the same direction.”
Indeed, Kent’s success came off the back of a ‘sea change’ close season at the county with Ben Green promoted to chief executive following the departure of Jamie Clifford, Simon Philip taking over from George Kennedy as chairman, Paul Downton was installed as director of cricket, Allan Donald finally taking on his role as assistant head coach and Billings installed as skipper, in place of the Hampshire-bound Sam Northeast.
The quintet worked hand in glove throughout the winter months to recruit Harry Podmore, the popular Middlesex seamer, Heino Kuhn, the South Africa batsman, as their Kolpak signing, Matt Henry, the Kiwi paceman, also proved an inspirational pick as overseas professional.
Getting all their dominos in place early, Kent also announced that Adam Milne, Marcus Stoinis and Carlos Brathwaite would share their short-form duties — and all three made an impact.
“The team camaraderie has been nothing like I’ve experienced at Kent before,” added Billings. “It’s been very special and shows how far we’ve come as a club in general. It’s not just been one bloke performing, it’s been a case of everyone chipping in. A fantastic squad effort.”
Buoyed by the team’s on-field progress, the club’s hierarchy are keen to continue the evolution of the side as faces continue to come and go at The Spitfire Ground, St Lawrence.
Former England spinner and ex-club captain James Tredwell announced his retirement through a shoulder injury with plans to move into coaching and umpiring.
All-rounder Will Gidman also hung up his boots to seek out a role in coaching, while seam bowler Matt Hunn left the club after five years with plans to move into ‘Civvy Street’.
After making huge strides, Ivan Thomas sadly ended the season on a low note. After injuring his right knee during nets, the big paceman underwent surgery for a torn anterior cruciate ligament and is expected to be out of action for six to nine months.
With bowling berths to fill, Kent have again moved quickly in recruiting Nottinghamshire seamer Matt Milnes on a three-year deal, while Netherlands left-arm quick bowler Fred Klaassen, joins on a two-year contract. Aged 24 and 25 respectively, the pair fit into Kent’s new recruitment model; ‘rough diamonds to be polished and nurtured by Donald’.
Though the team missed out on silverware, Joe Denly, who, as acting captain led the side to crucial early championship wins while Billings completed his IPL commitments, mopped up when it came to individual awards. Denly picked up Kent’s player and batsman of the season trophies to go with his PCA MVP award as overall player of the season among the 18 county sides. Denly, who has a testimonial season in 2019, is also rewarded with a place on England’s Test tour to Sri Lanka and a lucrative Big Bash deal in Australia with the Sydney Sixers after Christmas.