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Walker expecting tough test
Walker expecting tough test

Kent face arguably their toughest test thus far this summer as they head to the Kia Oval this week to face defending Champions and current leaders Surrey – and coach Matt Walker is under no illusions of what faces his side in the next four days.

Speaking to KSN, he told us, “They’re the Champions and they’re top and a very, very fine side. It’s always a challenge especially on their home patch.”

“We know what they’re about as we play them enough. It’s a challenge that we’re excited about and I’ve said to the lads this week that this is why we play the game – Division One cricket at its’ very best, playing against the best players and the best team and you should be excited about the challenge that we face this week.”

“It’s where we want to be – playing the best teams on the best grounds and that should be inspiring enough to get the focus on the game itself and put up a really good performance.”

“We know their qualities and the depth of their squad whatever combination they name even if they’ve lost a couple of players for whatever reason.”

“It’s always a tough match, but we’ve got to go in and not go in timidly and believe that we can win the game from the very first ball… which is something that we haven’t done so far this season.”

“We’ve got to be right at it either batting or bowling and make sure that our attitude is there to make sure that we’re there to win and not just to make up the numbers.”

Looking back on the draw against Hampshire last week, Walker admitted that not getting a first innings total remains a problem – he said, “Day one last week was probably about as poor as it got really.”

“We know what a good side Hampshire are and that they’ve got one of the best bowling attacks in the country which is their strength.”

“It was obviously a good toss to win, and they bowled very well, but we need to show more – no one really came forward as we lost wickets in clusters again and there’s no way you’re winning a game of cricket scoring less than a hundred unless you can dismiss the opposition for something similar.”

“We were way, way, way below the score we wanted to get… How we then performed with the ball was going to be key, but we couldn’t find our lengths, we bowled both sides of the wicket, and they were basically by the end of the day level with us with no wickets down which meant it was a very long way back from there!”

“But fortunately, the rain on day two helped us and then the last two days we played much better. The third morning to take 85-5 was outstanding and we bowled beautifully… and that’s the problem, we know that we can do it as we’ve seen it in patches, but after giving them the head start that we did, by the time we did bowl them out we were fighting to save the game – which we did brilliantly in the end.”

“It was key that Compo (Ben Compton) and Zak (Crawley) gave us a good start – we really didn’t want to lose a wicket and it gave us some confidence going into the last day with ten wickets in hand.”

“They took the sting out of things on the last morning and then we saw a resolute performance from Bilbo (Sam Billings), Jack (Leaning) and Coxie (Jordan Cox) at the end was excellent.”

“We now need to try to do that in the first innings. Add to that that they are players who haven’t spent much time in the middle, and it will do them a world of good.”

Walker then confirmed that Matt Quinn still isn’t ready to return to the squad which means a place for the first time in the squad for Arafat Bhuiyan who has been on the club’s staff and had signed for the remainder of the season.

Born in Dhaka, Bangladesh, but with UK residency, Arafat has taken 17 wickets for Kent Second XI, with best figures of 4-81 against Hampshire in the Second XI Championship last week.

He currently plays his club cricket in the Kent Premier League for Blackheath & took 4-26 last time out at the weekend against St Lawrence & Highland Court.

The coach told us, “He came down pre-season and bowled really well and has been pick of the bowlers for the second team this year. He’s bowled very nicely and has good skill in every game that he’s played – he’s already on the staff, but we’ve decided for the rest of the season to put him on a rookie contract for the rest of 2023 – it’s really nice to see a young cricketer that has come through club cricket and shows a lot of promise, and the rest of the squad is that same as faced Hampshire.”

Picture supplied by Max Flego Photography.