The Victors' Tale
This is the 48th day of the Championship season and also one of the most vital. Kent's batsmen are practising hard. Sam Northeast, having faced bowlers for a spell, leaves the nets and plays shadow shots to imaginary deliveries.Northeast has scored 542 runs this season and he will be a key batsman this morning. Facing Glen Chapple in overcast conditions will probably be the first of many tests ahead of Kent's players as they seek to score a further 255 runs.
On another part of the outfield, Lancashire's bowlers and fielders go through their umpteenth warm-up session of 2010. Among a whole variety of exercises, they lie on their stomachs and kick their legs in the air, they stretch and they snap their arms quickly behind their backs, much of this under the guidance of physio Sam Byrne, whose directions they obey like lambs. Then, as usual, they split into two teams and play a ball game. Today, it is a version of "catch" where players on one side have to string a series of throws together with their opponents trying to prevent them doing this but without touching anyone. Sajid Mahmood seems to be everywhere, catching, throwing, protesting, celebrating. This, too, is part of the business of being a professional cricketer in 2010.
I wander into the pavilion where the stern features of Kent's famous players from the golden age of cricket stare out at me. What would they make of these these stretches and games I wonder? What, indeed, would Colin Cowdrey, one of the most beloved of Kent cricketers, whose memorabilia is given a cabinet of their own. I remember him self-mockingly hiding his face in his hand when he had played a cross-batted shot in a one-day final at Lord's. That type of stroke is the accepted currency of such encounters now.
Joy for Lancashire! Martin van Jaarsveld is pouched by Horton at first slip off Chapple and then five balls later, Northeast is lbw to Tom Smith; yet again, the Kent man was playing across the line. As I write, Kent are 99 for four and if Geraint Jones or Darren Stevens go in the next half-hour, it could all be over very quickly.There is a small crowd, watching with a rapt stillness. All of the last three days have been leading to this. In the next few hours Lancashire's players could be drinking beer in the warmth of victory or they could be sunk deep in disappointment.
It'll be beer ! Jones and Stevens have both gone and Kent have lost four wickets for three runs in 27 balls.
A little defiance from Kent. Alex Blake has been bowled by Smith but James Tredwell and Matt Coles have so far added 27 for the eighth wicket. Meanwhile, a snapshot of 21st century journalism for you. The wi-fi is down and we are all trying to make other arrangements. One colleague asks another: "Is there any chance I can try my SIM card in your dongle?" Eat your heart out E W Swanton.
And so, with cricket's exquisite sense of the absurd, Kent go into lunch on 217 for 9, still needing 122 to win the game, a task which may be beyond Simon Cook and Amjad Khan. Meal-times matter in England and, as Kent's scorer points out rather desperately, if we have a deluge in the next 40 minutes the game wil be drawn.
Gareth Cross catches Simon Cook off Gary Keedy and it's beers all round. It's taken only nine balls since lunch and 28.3 overs today for Lancashire to take eight wickets. The Kent groundstaff are already preparing for tomorrow's CB40 game between the Kent Spitfires and the Nottinghamshire Outlaws. Before long, Lancashire's team song may ring out over this absurdly wonderful ground (attentive readers will have gathered by now that I like Canterbury) or maybe it will do so in the coach. Now for us, it's interviews, writing up and home. Trent Bridge on Tuesday is looking more interesting by the minute.
Photo: Simon Pendrigh
(c) Lancashire CCC Ltd