'I came here to win trophies' - Heino Kuhn targets Lord's triumph for Kent
Heino Kuhn was in tears just before Kent reached the final of the Royal London One-Day Cup. Not, you understand, in anticipation of his team's wonderful victory over Worcestershire, but because he thought it his fault that his side had not already won the game.
A few moments previously, with Kent needing four runs off four balls, Kuhn had holed out to Daryl Mitchell at deepish midwicket off Pat Brown. He had managed to acknowledge the applause as he walked off New Road with 127 runs against his name but the cameras caught the tears welling up even as he crossed the outfield.
"I was very emotional," he said, "We needed four to win and I felt it was my job to get us there. As a senior batter it was my responsibility. I'd got us that far and then I felt I might have just cost us the game. I didn't watch the last ball. I had my head in my hands and there were tears in my eyes."
As a desolate Kuhn was sitting in the dressing-room, Harry Podmore, Kent's No.10, cover-drove the boundary which sealed the win with two balls to spare.
"As soon as he hit the ball I heard guys shouting: 'Go, go, go, get over!' and then it just blew up," he said. "I looked at the TV and saw it had gone for four. I guess the tears kept on going. I looked at what was happening on the balcony and I think one or two players were close to falling off. So I'm just glad everyone's safe."
The joyous uproar which followed Kent's win says a lot about the ethos which head coach Matthew Walker has built at the club. Allan Donald, who, after all, had a half-decent career himself, played a leading role in the mayhem. Kuhn looks back on it all now with the utmost fondness as another justification for his decision to join the county at the start of this season.
"There are so many people I've played under, like Martin van Jaarsveld and Justin Kemp, who have only good things to say about Kent," he said "but having Allan here helps a lot, too. It just felt right.
"I didn't have any expectations when I arrived. I just wanted to bring the same winning culture I've picked up over the years playing for Titans, my franchise in South Africa. And I've seen that happening. Everybody's playing for each other, everyone's enjoying each other's company. It feels like home.
"I told the guys when I signed that I was coming to win trophies. I wasn't here to come fourth or fifth in the table. So far it's going very well."
Indeed it is. Kent are well placed to win promotion and on Saturday they will take their place in the penultimate domestic final to be played at Lord's. The team is playing with brio and confidence. Kuhn's commitment shines through in everything he does. Even his mother keeps in very regular contact with the club through social media.
He is also scoring the odd run. To be specific he has scored four List A hundreds in his last five innings. Only Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Alviro Petersen, Dean Jones and Kumar Sangakkara have also managed to do that. Against Hampshire at Lord's, Kuhn will look to emulate Petersen who managed five in six. Perhaps it is understandable he is a shade reluctant to analyse what sort of nick he is in. There is no need at all to do so.
"I'm not sure I've ever been in this sort of form," he said. "I'm not a stats guy but it just feels good. You do feel like you are going to do well. I'm enjoying my cricket and the balls go where you want them to go. You don't think as much, you just play as you see it and it's an amazing feeling, the best there is. Everything is going my way and I'm very happy about it. I just hope it continues into the final."
Kuhn knows very well that the runs do not always flow like cream from a jug. In last summer's Test series he made 113 runs in eight innings against England and was dismissed on six occasions by either James Anderson or Stuart Broad. A gritty, match-shaping 34 at Trent Bridge was overshadowed by failures in the other games. But what can he do about that now?
"I'm very happy to have the opportunity to play for South Africa, even though the conditions were tough last summer and we were facing two of the best bowlers in those conditions," he said. "I didn't change anything in my batting but it just didn't work out. So when I signed I said that whatever happened last year was in the past and I wasn't even going to think about it when I went out to bat. That's what helps me to prove people wrong by scoring runs wherever I play."
Perhaps it also helps him encourage the younger players at Kent and prepare them for one of the biggest occasions of their careers. One feels that Kuhn would be very good at that sort of thing; that he is a quiet presence in the dressing room, someone to whom everyone listens, someone you would want on your side for a Lord's final.
"What I've tried to explain to the younger guys is that if you play cricket, you'll be fielding for 90% of the time," he said. "Well, if you don't like fielding, why are you doing something you don't like. We try to enjoy our cricket and that's why we're doing so well.
"A Lord's final is a very big day and we're excited for that day to come. We will all do everything to win and I'll going to try and get that fifth hundred. We have an unbelievable side. We'll definitely be up for it."
Paul Edwards is a freelance cricket writer. He has written for the Times, ESPNcricinfo, Wisden, Southport Visiter and other publications