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Kent head coach Matt Walker highlights batsman Tawanda Muyeye and wicketkeeper Harry Finch as two leading lights from 2023

Two leading lights from Kent’s 2023 season have been praised by head coach Matt Walker.

Harry Finch performed well behind the stumps in tough circumstances and was handed a contract extension until 2025 last month.

Kent’s Tawanda Muyeye - forced his way into the first team during 2023. Picture: Keith Gillard
Kent’s Tawanda Muyeye - forced his way into the first team during 2023. Picture: Keith Gillard

Batsman Tawanda Muyeye was named Kent’s emerging player-of-the-year at October’s end-of-season awards after he hit his maiden first-class century at Northamptonshire in June.

Finch, 28, first came to Kent in 2021 and was thrust into the first-team limelight with several in their squad forced into self-isolation after one member tested positive for Covid, meaning Kent fielded a much-changed team for a County Championship clash against Sussex.

He struck a second-innings century in that game and, while Kent didn’t sign him then, he rejoined Spitfires for their successful One-Day Cup campaign in 2022 before joining permanently.

“Finchy has had a really interesting journey,” Walker said, of a player who has enjoyed an extended spell as Kent’s first-team wicketkeeper with Jordan Cox now leaving for rivals Essex and Sam Billings missing much of their last red-ball campaign.

“He played at Sussex. It didn’t quite work out and he came out of the game for a bit.

Harry Finch has impressed both with the gloves and as a batsman in Kent colours. Picture: Keith Gillard
Harry Finch has impressed both with the gloves and as a batsman in Kent colours. Picture: Keith Gillard

“He played a bit of cricket for us in the second team, going back to 2021 when we won the Blast and we had a real Covid nightmare. He came in and played a Championship game, and got a hundred there and played two really good knocks in the T20s.

“We didn’t sign Finchy that year. It just didn’t fit the budget - we didn’t need another batter.

“But Finchy held on and came back to play some more second-team cricket for us last year.

“He’s a great human being. The boys love him and he’s the sort of player you really want in your squad and he’s found his way into the team. He started the year in the second team.

“Finchy’s a really good leader and has worked really hard at his keeping. He’s not a natural keeper and hasn’t done it a huge amount.

“But since the start of the year, he’s identified that’s what he wants to do and he’s got better and better at it. His keeping has improved and the runs that he has scored have been really valuable.

“In the last three games, he contributed in all of them in some ways with some really strong performances. He’s someone you feel really pleased for because it’s not been a straight line for him at all. He’s had some real rocks in the road.

“Finchy’s got around them and he’s now playing - and actually, he really belongs here. He’s really come on.”

Muyeye joined Kent after being named 2020 Wisden Schools Cricketer of the Year. The former Eastbourne College sports scholar, now 22, broke into Kent’s team after racking up a glut of second-team runs.

“The emergence of Tawanda has been a real highlight for me,” said Walker, who recently turned 50.

“He has had a taste of it since he’s joined the club and, sometimes, a little bit by default, he has played because of injury or what have you.

“We, obviously, know the talent he has. That’s why we signed him.

“He’s a Zimbabwean refugee. His mum and sister were already in the country so he came over and went to school at Eastbourne College.

“A player that I played with here - and who also played for Nottinghamshire - Rob Ferley, at Eastbourne College, rang me up and said ‘You really need to look at this kid’.

“He was with Sussex a bit, hence the link with Eastbourne. There were a lot of complications around his visa and trying to keep him in the country was a big step and a lot of work to do.

“But we got him here and really wanted to sign him. Nottinghamshire were interested, as were Sussex, but Tawanda decided to come to us.”

It has taken Muyeye time to find his feet but he’s now making big progress. He was picked up by champions Oval Invincibles - coached by Walker and skippered by Kent team-mate Billings - for the 2023 tournament.

Walker said: “It didn’t really work out for him in the first couple of years. For some, that might have been a surprise - not necessarily for me.

“You see it a lot where these talented players at schoolboy level don’t always make the switch as quick as some. He hadn’t really played any long-format. He has been brought up on white-ball cricket.

“It’s taken a bit longer. But this year, he started in the second team and scored four hundreds and started to understand his game more.

“He earned the right to get in the side through his runs in the second team and, when he did come into the side, he was ready.

“To see him at the top of the order and developing - he’s still raw and still learning how to bat in different situations - but he’s shown some real class, especially in the T20s.

“He’s a really exciting player. Tawanda was picked up in The Hundred on the basis of what he did in the T20s.

“He’s been great.”

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