Stevens – the Peter Pan of cricket
Stevens – the Peter Pan of cricket

Without quite singing it from the players’ balcony of the Spitfire Ground, St Lawrence, Kent’s management team must be delighted that Darren Stevens agreed to put pen to paper on a one-year contract extension during the close season.

Towards the tail end to last year the Leicestershire-born player agreed terms for a 13th summer in Canterbury – a season which has begun with back-to-back championship wins inspired by runs and wickets for Stevens.

In the past fortnight the veteran all-rounder, who turns 41 on April 30, has been described as the ‘Peter Pan of cricket’ and likened to Benjamin Button – the quirky film character played by Brad Pitt who ages in reverse – this after Stevens scored 50s in three of his first four knocks and picked up 13 wickets, including two five-for returns in as many starts.

Derbyshire, this week’s visitors to Canterbury, are the next county to appear on the radar of Stevens who, according to Ben Brown, the Sussex wicketkeeper-batsman, shows no signs of losing the battle against Old Father Time just yet.

“Darren is a very skilful bowler, and one who’s been around for years,” said Brown. “He still hurts you with the bat, as he always has, but these days he’s equally adept with the ball. We’re talking about a very good all-round cricketer who knows his game inside out.

“Kent played well down here. Their seamers just wouldn’t go away.  They hit the wicket hard and kept coming at you and Darren was the one who did the most damage against us.  He’s may be not as quick as the others, but he bowls so few bad balls. There’s just no let up.”

Yet, if you listen to the man himself, who is currently ranked third in the Professional Cricketers’ Association’s Most Valuable Player rankings, his all-round contribution on the south coast last week all came quite simply and naturally.

“We had a third day plan in Hove to get 380 on the board and leave ourselves 15 overs to bowl at the end of the day and although bad light played a part, we more or less achieved it,” said Stevens.

“If I’m honest, it was quite nice to bat. If they’d have kept the field in it would have made things a little harder for us, but they spread it out, which made it easy for me to get off strike and let Sam, who was in great form, do most of the scoring.”

Stevens, who started the summer by scoring 115 against Leeds/Bradford MCCU, will again hope to feature extensively against Derbyshire from tomorrow (Friday) as will Wayne Parnell, the left-arm South Africa paceman who enjoyed his first stint with Kent in 2009. James Harris, the on-loan seamer from Middlesex, who missed the trip to Hove, is also in contention for a re-call.

Match facts:
• Kent have only lost once in their last seven matches versus Derbyshire (W3 D3).
• Kent have only tasted defeat twice across their last 21 outings (W8 D11); coming into this game having won both of their opening 2017 matches.
• Sam Northeast (Kent) has recorded five County Championship hundreds since June 2016; no batsman has claimed more in that time (level with Durham’s Keaton Jennings).
• Northeast registered his highest ever first-class innings score when these sides last met (191, June 2016).