Kent v Surrey, Canterbury, 4th day May 7, 2014

Adams talks of Division Two 'stigma'


Kent 435 (Key 126, Nash 126) and 54 for 2 beat Surrey 285 (Roy 60, Riley 4-77) and 203 (Riley 5-78) by eight wickets

It is not difficult to find a hard-luck tale on the county circuit but Kent have looked a little unloved in recent times. Beset by financial difficulties, they have spent five of the last six years in Division Two, having been the last of the 18 counties to experience life in the second tier. Despite a playing squad that bears comparison with most of their rivals, they began this season with a defeat and a loss to sit bottom of the table.

A first win may not mean all is suddenly rosy in the garden of England but, as Rob Key and his players enjoyed a barbecue on the dressing room balcony after comprehensively outplaying Surrey, it was tempting to suggest a renewed sense of optimism had settled on the St Lawrence Ground. Even in a competition where games are stretched out over four days, perspectives can alter quickly.

Jimmy Adams, the former West Indies international who has been Kent's coach for the past two years, admitted there was a "stigma" attached to being a Division Two side. Last season's seventh-place finish was a disappointment but a first maximum-points win since 2011 is a good place to start out in search of "the promised land" of Division One.

"As a club, we have to keep aiming for promotion," Adams said. "We want to win as many games as we can, across all the formats. Coming in as an outsider two years ago, I feel there is a stigma attached to Division One vs Division Two and for the players we have, I wish them Division One cricket. If we're not there yet, then let's work towards it, let's have that as a goal that sooner rather than later we can take a group of players into Division One.

"I really believe we have the ability. I do know that it takes time to build a team, especially to get performances that are sustainable but, like everybody connected to Kent, we want it to happen yesterday, rather than tomorrow or the day after, that's just human nature. But it is a big focus for us: that we keep working towards that goal. Whether we'll live to see the promised land, I don't know but we have to keep that as a target."

Having lost to Worcestershire, the surprise Division Two pacesetters, and drawn with Leicestershire, this was an important game for Kent to win. Their decisive 150-run first-innings advantage was based around centuries for Rob Key, who has resumed the captaincy this year, and Brendan Nash, while nine wickets for 22-year-old offspinner Adam Riley helped ensure Surrey never got close to parity.

After a difficult season under James Tredwell's captaincy in 2013, Adams had plenty of praise for Key's contribution to an impressive all-round performance. "I think he's one of the most experienced leaders in the English first-class game and as a coach it takes a lot of pressure off you," he said. "To have your leader scoring runs means that he's under less pressure, he has fewer things to focus on and I've learned the hard way you can't put a price on that over the course of a long county season."

Kent wrapped up victory either side of a 50-minute delay for rain. Jade Dernbach gave a decent King Louie impression for half an hour before swinging once too often at Riley to be stumped, with Surrey's lead a meagre 53. Only one ball was bowled before a heavy shower forced the players off and two quick wickets fell on the resumption but Daniel Bell-Drummond and Nash saw Kent home without further alarm.

Riley has now twice taken nine-wicket hauls this season - one for Loughborough MCCU against Sussex - to give him 23 wickets at 20.00 and an ever-burgeoning reputation. Only Steven Finn and Somerset's Lewis Gregory have taken more, which is quite something for a finger spinner in England after just a month of the first-class season. Riley has capitalised on Tredwell's limited-overs incumbency with England but it may not be long before there are international murmurings about the supposed understudy.

Key highlighted Riley's economy, alongside his wicket-taking threat, as a key element of victory, allowing Kent to rotate their two main seamers, Doug Bollinger and Mitch Claydon, at the other end for the majority of Surrey's second innings.

"You can't quite understand as a captain how nice it is to have a bowler that you can plonk on for twenty-plus overs," he said. "In the first innings he was there just to give us control - he did that plus he took wickets. Then in the second innings he really came into his own on a pitch that was starting to turn a little bit, but was by no means a Bunsen. Not only the wickets but the job he did for us, you can't speak enough about it because that was absolutely crucial. To go at two an over in this day and age is a serious effort."

Surrey are a club that could certainly do with an arm around the shoulder at the moment, their fourth game without a win increasing the sense that they will not be in the promotion equation this season, for all the leadership experience of Graeme Smith and Graham Ford.

Ford admitted his young side had been outplayed but said the players needed learned quickly from their mistakes. "There are little things we can be positive about," he said. "The important thing is that we start to grow those things now. There are some pleasing signs. I'm not sure how long it will take but we really need to start putting together long periods of good performances."

Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Chris on May 8, 2014, 16:25 GMT

    For the most part the players in Division 2 would be lured away to play in the top Division if they were good enough so there obviously is some difference between the non-star performers, but there are a few notable exceptions. It's also too simplistic to assume being in the lower division necessarily means all it seems because, unlike in football, the weather can have a significant effect on a team's results over the season if they are unlucky enough to be playing where the rain is often enough.

  • Peter on May 8, 2014, 13:44 GMT

    @ cod and chips and steve bob

    I think there is more of a difference than you two think. Yes there are some very good players in division 2 however they tend to be the overseas players like Abbot, Ajmal and Bollinger or players like Cook who won't be there for long.

    The average standard in division 2 is worse than the average standard in division 1 and when players are mostly judged on the stats they get it is far easier to get a good average in Division 2 than Division 1 because the opposition is on the whole not as good.

    The two teams favourite to go down from Division 1 this year are the two teams promoted from Division 2 last year, that should be telling you something.

  • Edward on May 8, 2014, 12:16 GMT

    @salazar555, In a Division 2 that boasts facing the likes of Saeed Ajmal, Doug Bollinger, Kyle Abbot... as well as england prospects such as Tymal Mills and Stuart Meaker or prehaps bowling at Alistair Cook, Shiv Chanderpaul or Greame Smith.

    The level of Surrey and Derbyshire performances so far this year must give some weight to the fact that the 2 divisions are a lot closer than is sometimes thought.

  • Paulo on May 8, 2014, 9:09 GMT

    @salazar555 arguably the best/2nd best limited overs opening combination of Vince and Carberry play championship cricket in div 2. Didn't Joe Root learn his trade in div 2? Also look at the way Graeme Smithis struggling in division 2. There is not as much of a gap as you think.

  • Paulo on May 8, 2014, 8:42 GMT

    I don't think there is as much as a difference between division 1 and 2 as is made out. Lancashire obviously contradict this, though arguably 2011 was just an anomaly, given they had won the league the year before and are only struggling now due to loss of batsmen, and there are some very talented players in div 2, and some ordinary teams in div 1. The obvious example is James Taylor, who was brought up in div 2 but adapted to div 1 easily. Kerrigan has made the transition easily to div 1. The only real differenced between the 2 is that the "ordinary" players in div 2 are worse than the ones in div 1.

    Surrey are just a disgrace. How a bowling attack of Dernbach, Tremlett, Meaker, who all have had goes with England, can be so bad, is beyond me. I agree that the likes of Dunn and Linley should play more.

    Adam Riley looks good. Personally I'd live him for a bit, but surely he's got an outside chance of a test place. I still like Kerrigan as a front -line spinner.

  • Robert on May 8, 2014, 7:19 GMT

    Adams comments are a bit confusing - there should be a "stigma" if the divisional structure works. Div 2 should be worse than Div 1. If you are in Div 2 you're not as good as Div 1. Get better. Simples!

  • Jason on May 8, 2014, 6:54 GMT

    To experience a defeat and a loss at this point of the season must be of utmost concern... however finally a pretty emphatic triumph will hopefully kick start Kent's season. They can't be as bad as Surrey who seem to have the arrogance of a team who have absolutely no idea what professional sport is about. Just because you're employed by a major team (with a glittering history) doesn't mean you're entitiled to win... graft & dedication mixed with some talent & skill does generally help. I sincerely hope Smith & the coaching staff can get their lads firing on all cylinders as soon as possible... cliched rant over!

  • Peter on May 8, 2014, 1:01 GMT

    I don't think there is enough made of the gap between division 1 and division 2. Players are often selected for England on flattering division 2 stats, Ali, Kerrigan and Carberry are three examples.

    There is a difference in the quality of players in the two divisions and the England selectors should be taking this more into account when selecting their squad than they have in the recent past.

    Good stat's in division 1 are worth far more than the same stat's in division 2. Football players would never be selected for England from the 2nd tier of English football so why are Cricketers?

  • GeoffreysMother on May 7, 2014, 23:18 GMT

    Cyril, it will all be fine when KP comes back . He is England's best batsman and has promised to work with the youngsters. Just replay the start of the season press conferences - its all there.

  • Mark on May 7, 2014, 19:37 GMT

    @Cyril_Knight The young, immature Surrey squad of two years ago needed some discipline. This squad needs a father figure and Graeme Smith's test is to going to be to see if he can provide it. I can't imagine him putting up with some of the nonsense that was going on then.

    I suspect that he has also had a lot to do with replacing the overage squad of 2013 with one that is young and capable of learning. Probably he feels that if he gets three years with these players, he can mould them into a proper team. What they need is two years of stability and learning the basics before making a serious effort to be promoted. However, he also has to work out how to get the new ball attack to fulfil their promise of three years ago and do the job expected of them: Jade Dernbach is a particular problem - by now he should have been challenging for a Test place instead, he is not even sure of his place in the Surrey team (a lot of people would play Tim Linley).

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