Walker delighted with Donald
Walker delighted with Donald

After a year of frustration and visa issues cricketing legend Allan Donald has finally joined Kent as their assistant coach and his boss, Matt Walker, couldn’t be more delighted.

Donald, the 51-year-old pace-bowling icon from Bloemfontein, was scheduled to become Walker’s right-hand man last spring until the lack of a recognised coaching certificate led to work permit and visa wrangles.

Twelve months on, the former South Africa firebrand – who took 330 wickets in his 72 Test appearances – finally jetted into Kent, only to fly out again the following day!

Explaining events and his delight at having Donald aboard at last, Walker said: “He flew in on the Friday and flew out with the lads on our pre-season tour to Antigua on the Saturday, so he’d hardly had any time to meet the squad at all – he was literally thrown in at the deep end. But it was a great chance for him to get to know the guys, build relationships and find out a little of what makes them all tick.”

Though he missed the tour Walker, who spent part of January and February in Australia helping England’s assistant coach Paul Farbrace and the national Twenty20 side competing in the Trans-Tasman Tri-series, was buoyed by Kent’s showing in the West Indies Super 50 in Antigua.

Competing in the event for the second successive season, Spitfires reached the semi-finals only to go out to eventual winners Barbados in a close fought game.

After debriefing the squad on their return, Walker said: “I’d have been disappointed if Allan had not been allowed to join us because the very reason we signed AD was for his reputation as one of the greatest players to ever play this game, not for any pieces of paper he may have lying around in the bottom drawer. He’s a coach who’s travelled the world with international sides and IPL franchises, and with a character like his – he’s a good man with so much to offer – it was no surprise to me that he made such an immediate impact and that the team went on to reach the last four.”

Walker added: “AD quickly brought his own brand of competitiveness into the group and I’m told that was evident throughout. The group took on his South African attitude of hunting in the field and maintained high energy levels.

“No surprises either that a couple of our fast bowlers, Ivan Thomas and Callum Haggett, benefited from having AD around and both showed well throughout the competition.

“Clearly, the lads managed to adapt to conditions in Antigua much better this year and were much more competitive as a result. The most pleasing thing was that by all reports the atmosphere and the culture in our dressing room throughout the competition was absolutely top class, which was something we’d talked about a lot before the side went away; about trying to set ourselves up as an extremely professional outfit with high standards and values across the board.

“I want the guys to buy into something special that’s building here and the feedback from coaches, senior players and our captain out there was outstanding. All the pieces were consistently in place and that impacted on our performances on the field. Across the board everyone impacted at some stage in that competition and we were the best fielding side in the event by a country mile. It should all help to give the guys a great boost in confidence as we build up toward the domestic season in England.”

*Daniel Bell-Drummond is again relishing playing for the South in the North-South Series – this time in Barbados.

Bell-Drummond, whose opening partnership with Dawid Malan laid the foundations for a 3-0 whitewash for the South in the inaugural series in the UAE last year, formed an equally effective alliance with Nick Gubbins in the first match of this year’s series at the Kensington Oval in Barbados.

He made 52 off 53 balls in an opening stand of 134, as the South maintained their dominance with a 63-run win – meaning they were aiming to clinch another series win in the second game at the Kensington Oval today (Wednesday).