Saturday, 16 June 2012

Same squad for Beckenham clash

Chris Adams has kept faith with the same squad of 14 players who took on Middlesex at Lord's this week as he goes to Beckenham, looking to avenge a double defeat by Kent last season.

The squad and possible XI is as follows:

Rory Hamilton-Brown
Steven Davies
Jason Roy
Zander de Bruyn
Matthew Spriegel
Gary Wilson
Zafar Ansari
Gareth Batty
Murali Kartik
Dirk Nannes
Stuart Meaker

Bench: Chris Tremlett, Chris Jordan, Tom Maynard

Yes, that amounts to the same side that trotted out in the gloom on Thursday evening, and why not after the thumping win they delivered? If I was Adams I'd be tempted by two changes though. First, I'd be seriously considering bringing in Tom Maynard for Zander de Bruyn. De Bruyn has not looked his old self this season and a couple of weeks rest, after a lot of cricket already in 2012, might be just what he needs. Maynard is also a greater threat in the field - assuming he has recovered from his injury. The original car "accident" has now been modified to a car "incident" in a quote from Chief Executive Richard Gould. The speculation around exactly what caused that has done the club no favours whatsoever.

The other change, which is perhaps a little hasty, would be to give Chris Tremlett a run out ahead of Dirk Nannes. Nannes, like de Bruyn, has not carried the threat he did last season thus far. He's bowled four overs for 37 runs and no wickets. That itself may tell a story though, since he played no cricket in the IPL this is the first time he's bowled competitively since late March, and may need some more time to get back into his groove.

The top three simply have to improve in this game. They have a top score of 22 between them in the first two games and have played some pretty ill-advised shots in getting out. I have said before and will say again, I think a more stable batsman in amongst the top three would be a good idea. Matthew Spriegel showed his value on Thursday, he takes a while to get going but once he does he can hit the ball as far as anyone. He is also a hugely intelligent cricketer, as is Wilson. One incident that marked this out for me on Thursday was a mix-up which resulted in a near run out. Rather than get flustered, the pair of them just bedded down for an over, not gambling on risky twos, it was enormously impressive. He could play the anchor role at the top while the strokemakers play around him, and once he's set, he can join them in the boundary fun. It's not a move I expect Adams to make though.

What more can one say about our phalanx of spin bowling? After two matches spinners have bowled 25 out of 37 overs, they've taken 12 of the 17 wickets to fall and have cost on average just 5.7 runs an over. Their control has been extremely impressive, in those 25 overs they've bowled just two wides. The way they squeeze the life out of the opposition's batting order is a sight to behold - in concert with some excellent fielding of course. In the Middlesex game, Hamilton-Brown showed why he should bank on himself for a few more overs in this format, he took 2-5 in just six balls. He has a better Twenty20 strike rate than Lasith Malinga!

Kent did the double over us last season, due in large part to failing to control Azhar Mahmood (and a frankly bizarre knock of 25 from 45 deliveries by de Bruyn), he remains a huge threat with bat and ball. The same applies to Darren Stevens. His experience, plus that of Rob Key and Brendan Nash, allied to the youthful exuberance of players like Sam Billings who looked very handy in a televised game earlier this season, makes them a dangerous side.

As with Essex, the one area where we do have a significant advantage over Kent is in the field, so hopefully we can make that count. As has been said before, we've won two from two with barely a contribution from the top order. If any of that top three can find their mojo again, we could be out of sight with an in-form middle order to follow. The weather, depending on where you look, seems set fair for tomorrow and with so many washouts, just getting a game in will be crucial for both sides.