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Analysis

Evergreen and inevitable: Darren Stevens plays his greatest hits one more time

Kent's Old Father Time heads for Lord's after latest display of unfinished business

Cameron Ponsonby
30-Aug-2022
Darren Stevens takes the plaudits after guiding Kent into the Royal London Cup final  •  Getty Images

Darren Stevens takes the plaudits after guiding Kent into the Royal London Cup final  •  Getty Images

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times, as Kent won a thriller at the Ageas Bowl thanks to an phenomenal all-round performance by a young upstart named Darren Stevens.
It is by now a legal requirement that any game involving Stevens must carry him front and centre of each and every event. A living example of one of those ancient conventions that are somehow still part of our legislation. You must never walk cows down a street, gamble in a library or let Darren "Stevo" Stevens have a quiet game.
In the Royal London Cup semi-final at the Ageas Bowl on Tuesday, Stevens was the most economical of the Kent bowlers with 10 overs for 45, before striking an audacious 84 not out off 65 balls to take his side to a three-wicket win and Kent's first one-day final since 2018.
It is sometimes difficult to understand whether you should spend your life in awe of Stevens or with a sense of pity. Because of his age (46 years and 122 days at time of writing), he is at times revered to the point of ridicule. Old Father Time who's existing in the age of Twitter. Still cutting a dash, still doing his thing and still doing it far better than many that have followed him to cricket's altar. This will be his fourth List A final (the first of his three previous defeats was in 2001), but his second county final in consecutive seasons, after a starring role in Kent's Blast triumph last year.
But then, as much as we may try to put a straight face on it and simply admire a player for the abilities he holds now while removing them from any context, it's also impossible to do so, given just how much of an anomaly he is within the game.
He is 46 years old, for God's sake. For the first seven years of his life it wasn't even a legal requirement to wear a seatbelt. He's old enough to be half of his team's dad. And given his legend around Kent, you wouldn't be surprised to find out if he actually was.
His ability and his evergreen versatility go hand-in-hand. With the ball, he was the wily old pro who sent down all ten of his overs in a row and put a stranglehold on an innings that was otherwise threatening to balloon out of control. But then with the bat, he played as "modern" an innings as you're ever likely to see.
He cut, he carved, he drove and he swept. Arriving at the crease with, in effect, five wickets in hand due to an injury to Alex Blake, and with 135 still to win off 19 overs, he marshalled the chase without any fuss or hysterics, even as he lost partners at the other end. But if Stevens conducted the process with serenity, he conducted his celebrations with anything but. The fist pumps were big, the cheers from the Kent balcony even bigger, the hugs with the family the best. I'm sorry, sir, but you can't walk your cows down here, Stevo's in town.
And, as if to add an extra layer of flavour to the performance and some extra gusto to the celebrations, all this played out against the backdrop of Kent having announced that Stevens would be released at the end of the year. We have been here before. In 2019, Kent called time on his Canterbury tale before a battery of double-centuries and five-wicket hauls forced them to change their mind. In this competition, Stevens averages 113.5.
Stevens' farewell tour has now been going on longer than The Who's. But whilst it may seem outlandish that he does wish to continue at his age, it is also incredibly simple.
He does so because he enjoys it. Nothing more, nothing less. And why stop if that's the case? Players speak all the time of when you know, you know. The body hurts that bit more and the excitement of heading to training no longer gets you out of bed in the morning. It's over.
And just as they know, so does Stevens. It's just that where they knew they wished to stop, he knows he wishes to carry on. Thank you, Tokyo, this has been a once in a lifetime experience. I can't wait to see you all again next year.

Cameron Ponsonby is a freelance cricket writer in London. @cameronponsonby