Size 4 bats, windballs and a glamorous woman

The St Lawrence Ground in Canterbury (stock image)

They call Lord’s the home of cricket, but if you’re a Canterbury boy like me then our home of cricket is the St Lawrence Ground.

There was a general rule which operated in the 80s when I was a kid: if Kent were at Canterbury and if I wasn’t at school, I was there.

Armed with my £15 junior membership, I watched as much live cricket as was possible.

I had only been introduced to cricket in 1985 when my dad took me and a friend up to the ground in August 1985 to watch Kent host Allan Border’s touring Australians.

That was it. Over the next couple of years, I became hooked on the game. And the likes of Neil Taylor, Derek Aslett, Eldine Baptiste, Chris Cowdrey, Simon Hinks, Steve Marsh, Alan Igglesden and Richard Ellison became heroes of mine.

Baptiste of Kent and West Indies

My friends and I found our home upstairs in the Annex stand. Not quite behind the bowler’s arm but good enough for a view of the whole playing area.

We became regulars there, along with some retired men and women who whiled away their days watching cricket. I also remember a tall, glamorous woman who always sat in the seat immediately next to players’ viewing balcony.

And as soon as there was a break in play, it was straight on to the field with our windballs and size 4 bats for a game in which the letter on an advertising board served as the stumps.

It’s mind-boggling to think how different the game played by the professionals is today what with the advent of T20 and 50-over matches where scoring at the rate of a run a ball is not unrealistic.

Back in the 80s, of course, there was one County Championship division and three-day matches.

Then there were the limited overs competitions. The NatWest Trophy was 60 overs a side, the B&H cup 55 and the John Player League 40.

The fortunes of Kent on any given day always affected my mood. Elated if they won and down in the dumps if they lost.

I recall Graham Gooch smashing a century for Essex in a B&H match at Canterbury in the late 80s. Kent only won two matches and failed to get out of the five-team regional group.

Another time, in a 40-over game on Sunday, Kent should have cruised to a comfortable victory over Middlesex only for the visitors’ nine and 10 batsmen Simon Hughes and Gus Fraser to hit their way to an unlikely win.

I was beside myself with rage and seriously worried my mother who couldn’t work out why I’d been so affected by a game of cricket.

Even worse, however, was looking forward to the next home match only to wake up to find it bucketing down. No play would completely ruin my day.

At the start of this year’s County Championship season we cricket fans were left disappointed when the umpires inspected the pitch and declared it too wet for play on day one of the match with Gloucestershire.

So we waited for yesterday (Saturday) for the first ball to be bowled of the full season. The St Lawrence Ground witnessed an astonishing 18 wickets fall as Kent were bowled out for 64 while Gloucestershire go into today’s play on 110-8.

One thing doesn’t seemed to have changed, then. It’s hard being a Kent fan…


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