Walker proud of Kent victory
Walker proud of Kent victory

Head coach Matt Walker was brimming with Kentish pride following his side’s five-wicket Specsavers County Championship win over Surrey at The Kia Oval this week.

Under the stewardship of interim captain Heino Kuhn, Kent out-boxed the reigning champions on all four days to travel home with a crucial third win of the campaign.

Their 23-point haul leaves them fifth in the first division, some 59 points clear of Nottinghamshire in eighth – a useful cushion during a season when only one team suffers relegation.

Midway through his third season as head coach Walker described the victory as one of the best during his tenure.

“When you come to the Oval to play against the reigning champions you know you will have a real battle and that you will have to fight from ball one to the very end,” he said.

“We knew it was never going to be easy in Division One, but it’s only when you start playing at this level that you really know what it’s about. Even at the end of this game, chasing 121, it was tricky – especially when Morne Morkel took two wickets in the first over.

“But we showed resolve and we got over the line. Yes, we’ve made some mistakes in the campaign so far, but this match shows how far we have now come in a short space of time.

“We showed some real fighting spirit this week and the lads are rightly pleased with the win. I am really proud of the team too.”

In an unusually low-scoring game at the SE11 Test venue, Kent’s batsmen posted five gritty half-centuries compared to Surrey’s three, while the visiting attack out-performed the illustrious Brown Caps brigade as Darren Stevens and Matt Milnes recorded the game’s best figures of five for 60 and four for 67 respectively.

In picking out a couple of individual performances to mention in despatches, Walker mentioned his 20-year-old keeper-batsman Ollie Robinson and new-ball bowler, Milnes.

Robinson marched in on the final afternoon of the game with his side teetering in their pursuit having lost four wickets for 50. He went on to hit a nerveless unbeaten 51 off 41 balls and won the game with a towering six over mid-on to fully impress the head coach.

“Let’s not get carried away too much but that was a pretty special innings in the circumstances and to get us over the line was a great moment for him,” said Walker.

“The two hundreds Ollie scored earlier in the season were important for him, but at 20 years old he just seems to suck up pressure and that makes any player special in my eyes.

“He’s answered every question thrown at him so far, and his keeping is also improving all the time. He’s got real talent with the gloves and with the bat but, as we saw in that fifty, he’s also got a great temperament.”

As for the contribution of Milnes, who took seven wickets in the match to take his championship tally to 41 scalps at 23.51 apiece, Walker added: “Matt is becoming a very fine bowler very quickly and I really like the way he performs.

“He’s quick enough and he’s at the batsmen all the time. He’s a natural wicket-taker and he’s catching the eye of a few people. He’s been a superb addition to the team since he joined last winter from Notts and I think he can go on and play for England.

“Considering that he’s still only played around 15 championship matches in his career out of 18 first-class games overall, he’s coming on incredibly well.”

Kent travel to Southampton to take on Hampshire over the weekend for a Sunday start to their 10th championship match of the campaign. They are likely to name an unchanged squad of 13 adding Mitch Claydon and Fred Klaassen to the 11 on duty against Surrey.