Grounds 2023(Kent)

Beckenham, Dartford, Gravesend.

Apart from Canterbury past excursions  to Kent  meant Folkestone, in 1985, when a Malcolm Marshall resistant playing surface dented Hants title hopes, Maidstone, for a Sunday League game,  and Tunbridge Wells when Shane Warne was a very big star. Good days out at the cricket, prompting the curiosity  to return last year to what now feel like vacated English idylls.

The cricket map of the 1971 season shows just how local county cricket was at one time, diverse folks watching in diverse places. In Kent seven outgrounds in a home  season of 53 days, even ‘nomadic’ Essex played at just four that year. The cathedral county a power in English cricket during that decade was also among the most local: in 1971 the first game was at Gravesend against Leicestershire, four of the Ashes’ winners three months earlier on the scorecard.

In 2023 37 of the 39 men’s home days are at Canterbury, although credit the fact Kent do have a second ground at Beckenham, one they are committed to:  two ODC matches and a base for the South-East Stars this season. Big, almost farmland big to one side, to this visitor it fell between being a major stadium and the appeal of many outgrounds, a place for others to watch their cricket. The immediate environs are very leafy suburb, which might be one clue to the future  of diversity in Kent cricket.

Hesketh Park, Dartford, on a non-matchday the cricket ground was tranquility itself,  an oasis of sorts given the urban nature of the approach to it from the railway station. It’s on a scale more sympathetic to traditional supporters with a taste for outgrounds, in the years when Kent played here the largest attendance was 3,750.

Gravesend, historic is a good word to characterise the The Bat and Ball Ground,  first-class games played here according to Cricket Archive between 1849-1971. In past the pub of the same name in 2023 a functional nature, but still atmospheric, with club cricket strong enough for a midweek afternoon fixture.