County Focus: Broke and bottom of the pile, Kent will need more than Bligh spirit

A Kentish graveyard bore witness to a touching ceremony last Wednesday. The Cobham plot containing the remains of Ivo Bligh – the man who first brought the Ashes urn back from Australia, in 1882 – had been refurbished thanks to a campaign led by the Cricket Society, and a rededication was taking place.

Among the crowd at the churchyard near Gravesend were the Kent captain Rob Key and the county's wicketkeeper Geraint Jones, both of whom have followed Bligh into England colours. For all of the event's solemnity, however, the pair may have enjoyed the break from Kent's current plight: the club are bottom of the Second Division having lost their last four games.

Given that Kent won this division by a streak two years ago, and were in the running to stay in the top flight into the final knockings of 2010, their current plight is a bit of a surprise. But perhaps it has been coming. Kent, it now appears, have lived beyond their means in recent years, eschewing a long tradition of local players in favour of South African imports, not all of whom gave value for money.

The depth of their financial problems first became clear at the start of last season, when the club declared an annual loss of over £800,000. Since then the focus has been on survival. The squad has been pared back, to the extent the bowling now looks as weak as it has in many years. As weak as, perhaps, it has ever done.

But the attack cannot be solely blamed for Kent's plight (even if Paul Farbrace, the county's otherwise admirable coach, thought the recent defeat at Glamorgan was down to his bowlers), no more than financial problems can explain why a batting line-up that, on paper, is the match of any in the division is failing so badly. Too often this year Kent have been 120 for 6, thus exposing the bowling. The results have been inevitable.

It's hard to explain why such a talented line-up should be struggling for runs: is it the Tiflex ball used in the Second Division but not the First, which has the reputation of extravagant swing early in an innings? Are the club's financial problems weighing on the club's older heads? Could it even be that those elder statesmen – Key (32), Martin van Jaarsveld (36) and Jones (34) – are past their best?

Amid all this on-field angst, the situation off the field is gradually improving. While some supporters are not happy with the time it is taking to remake the club's headquarters at Canterbury, at least work is under way. Before last season, the St Lawrence Ground's noted elegance had been somewhat compromised by a surfeit of rust and flaking paint.

And that's not the only sign of renewal. The team that faced a Loughborough MCCU last week boasted a top seven in which the oldest man, captain Sam Northeast, was 21. The likes of Adam Ball (18) – who had to miss the defeat to Glamorgan because he needed to go back to school – and Daniel Bell-Drummond (17), who struck 80 against Loughborough, hold the promise of far better times ahead.

In the immediate future, Key's side face seventh-placed Derbyshire, another club that has endured its portion of discord of late. At this admittedly early stage, today's match has the flavour of a wooden spoon play-off.

Kent have not finished bottom since 1995, and then they swept almost all before them in one-day cricket, winning the Sunday League. Key, one of the game's most well-liked characters, may be coming to the end of his time as captain and will not want his final act to be an 18th-place finish. Perhaps it's time he invoked another great Kent name of the past, the all-rounder Frank Woolley. "When I am batting, I am the attack," he once said. Kent could do with a bit of that spirit now.

Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Voices
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Sport
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
football
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths
Life and Style
life
Sport
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
News
Amazon misled consumers about subscription fees, the ASA has ruled
news
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn