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Kent director of cricket Paul Downton explains why no county cricket will be played at The Nevill Ground, Tunbridge Wells, this summer


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Kent director of cricket Paul Downton says the county would love to return to playing county cricket in Tunbridge Wells.

All home matches this summer will be played at either The Spitfire Ground in Canterbury or Beckenham.

Kent batter Joe Denly in action at The Nevill Ground, Tunbridge Wells, in 2018. Picture: Andy Payton
Kent batter Joe Denly in action at The Nevill Ground, Tunbridge Wells, in 2018. Picture: Andy Payton

“It’s just Covid still, the regulations surrounding Covid,” Downton explained.

“At the moment, we are planning to have a season as normal.

"Players will go back into their normal dressing rooms, we will be dining in much smaller areas, but we’ve all been told by the ECB that you’ve got to have a Plan B.

“If Covid takes off again or something happens, you’ll have to revert to being able to accommodate social distancing in the sense of separating the teams, providing different areas and so on.

“Tunbridge Wells is a great ground with a great tradition, we really enjoy playing there.

“It’s council-owned and, to be honest, just doesn’t have the facilities to be able to cope with a Plan B if it had to be used.”

Downton hopes supporters will be impressed with the work which has been going on behind-the-scenes during the close-season at Canterbury, with the Frank Woolley stand undergoing a £300,000 restoration.

It is hoped the stand will be operational for the first home match of the season against Lancashire on April 14.

Kent’s County Championship game at Beckenham against Surrey will start on Thursday, May 12, while they’ll also play a Royal London One-Day Cup match against Hampshire there on Sunday, August 7.

He said: “The reality is we have seven home Championship matches, seven home T20 matches and the one-day fixtures, so there aren’t that many to go around if you look at it.

“We are continuing to invest in Canterbury, so I think supporters will be really pleased to see the works that have been done over the winter - the refurbishment of the Frank Woolley stand.

Kent director of cricket Paul Downton alongside head coach Matt Walker. Picture: Ady Kerry
Kent director of cricket Paul Downton alongside head coach Matt Walker. Picture: Ady Kerry

“It was shut all of last year, partly due to Covid and partly due to some issues over safety, but that will be up and running.

“We have had a good upgrade to the Colin Cowdrey suites and the pitch that Adrian Llong (Kent’s head of grounds) is investing so much time and effort in continues to get better.

"So as a cricket ground, it continues to be on the up.

“Beckenham is a fantastic facility. There is no other county which owns two first-class grounds. While Covid still has impacts, we will play a four-day game and a Royal London game there.

“We can’t spread it around too much beyond that.

“Tunbridge Wells, obviously, has got a huge history and we would love to go back to Tunbridge Wells when the time is right. Beyond that, we just don’t have enough games to share them around.

“I think it’s clear Canterbury will continue to be our home ground, Beckenham is our satellite ground, and we will look at resuming going to Tunbridge Wells as and when the time is right.”

In preparation for their campaign, Kent have decided against going away - instead training inside a temperature-controlled marquee at The Spitfire Ground.

Downton commented: “When we were making a decision back in December whether we tried to get away for pre-season, we looked at places like Dubai and South Africa.

"But there was just so much uncertainty with Omicron having appeared on the horizon as to whether we would have been able to get away or not.

"So we decided to have certainty.

“Last year, we did manage to get away, we had a wet pre-season and we didn’t manage to get outside until late March. I’m sure it’s not a complete coincidence, within a few weeks, we’d lost our complete bowling attack through injuries!

“This year we decided to invest in the marquee. It has put more onus on what Adrian and the ground staff do.

“We have only done it once and that was half-heartedly a few years ago with a 30-metre marquee - open at one end!

“With the slopes and everything, it turned out to be a bit of a disaster.

“This time, we’ve put a tent up 50-metres long and 50-metres wide, it takes up the top three pitches and the bowl-through on the square.”

Kent's pre-season campaign got under way this week as they played Warwickshire in a two-day friendly at The Spitfire Ground.

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