Middlesex versus Kent, T20 Blast, 20th July 2017
The first match Cricketarchive records as being played at ODP was a fixture in 1867 between Richmond and a United South of England Eleven, a team of travelling cricketers taking the game around the country. It was the second USEE match of that season, having lost a few days earlier in Southampton with the Hampshire county team finishing 95-13. They won at ODP by an innings, and their itinerary that summer was to take them round southern England including Harrow, Islington and Southgate in Middlesex and Ashford and Maidstone in Kent, the games being played with 11 against between 15 and up to 22 on occasion.
150 years later, Middlesex were taking games to outgrounds and the Kent team that took to the field was made up of players born in Ashford, Maidstone and elsewhere. There were globe travelling cricketers available to showcase their talents on both sides; Brendon McCullum, one of the game’s major figures, and Dawid Malan, from Roehampton to Richmond via Paarl in a manner of speaking, opened for Middlesex and gave them a good blast with a partnership that made 92 for the first wicket; ‘ain’t no stopping us now’ accompanied Dawid Malan back to the pavilion. Brendon McCullum went onto make 88, 72 of which came in boundaries, and together with a rapid 28 from Eoin Morgan, over 200 was possible for a time, but the innings was checked by a hat-trick by Matt Coles in the final over.
Kent went in search of 180, but were soon two wickets down, the second over being a wicket maiden bowled by Steven Finn and Middlesex fielded with three slips at one point; but Kent rallied with a fourth wicket partnership between Sam Northeast and Jimmy Neesham, the New Zealander, hired by the visitors for the tournament; Alex Blake kept the visitors hopes real until a boundary catch at the end of the 18th over. They finished 16 short.
The Pagoda in Kew Gardens was under wraps this year, and the vantage point of the London Welsh rugby stand was also closed, but ODP, home to a cricket club that was established in the middle of the 19th century and with the oldest rugby club around the corner does sporting history; a place in which the T20 Blast felt like a descendant of the 40 over Sunday League, cricket a bit more like cricket and comparisons with baseball more distant.