Kent is said to be the birthplace of English cricket and, today, the county team and the limited-overs squad, called the Spitfires, remain at the centre of the English cricket world. Despite their long, unbroken history, the club have never established a fixed home ground, and today they share home matches between St Lawrence Ground, Canterbury, the County Cricket Ground, Beckenham and the Neville Ground, Tunbridge Wells. After a quiet period at the end of the twentieth century, Kent’s fortunes have picked up again since the millennium, although the enthusiasm of their fanbase has never abated.
Kent Cricket Club emerges alongside the history of the game itself. The first known reference to the game of cricket mentions Newenden in Kent, while the first definite reference to a cricket match in 1610 specifies a game played at Chevening between teams from the Weald and the Downs. Cricket and cricket matches were then mentioned with increasing frequency throughout the seventeenth century and the first undisputed county game was played between Kent and Sussex in 1709.
Kent continued as one of three dominant teams in English cricket into the nineteenth century, the other two being Surrey and a particularly strong Hambledon side. Powerful noble patrons and fixtures against the forerunners of the English national team, then called the ‘All England’ squad, ensured that Kent remained a notable team.
The team were pioneers of English cricket in other ways too. In an 1822 match at Lords, Kent cricketer John Willes was no-balled for bowling with a roundarm action, an action he had been promoting as a legitimate style of play for some years. Willes reacted by leaving the pitch and refusing to rejoin play, and his protest has gone down in cricketing history as provoking the ‘roundarm revolution’, which reconfigured accepted bowling styles.
From the 1830s through the 1840s, Kent took the Champion County title with regularity, and many of their players in that era – Alfred Mynn, Fuller Pilch, and Nicholas ‘Felix’ Wanostrocht – are still remembered as amongst the club’s very finest.
In 1842, the Kent County Cricket Club was formalized in Canterbury, and in 1859 the standing institution was radically reorganized to make it into the club it is today.
However, after the ‘golden decade’ of Kent cricket in the 1970s, they soon slipped under the competitive radar again, despite maintaining a high profile in terms of media attention and fanbase. The 1980s proved a dry decade and it would not be until 1995 that the team would take their next trophy, the Sunday League trophy, which they recaptured post-millennium in 2001. Despite such admittedly modest successes, Kent was maintaining its place near the top of English cricket leagues and tournaments but simply fell short when it mattered.
The Club Today
In 2006, as per their normal form, Kent finished the season a respectable but non-ranking fifth place in Division 1 of the County Championship, and the Spitfires paralleled them at fifth in the NatWest Pro40 League Division 2.
However, the next season, they were to move upwards. In August 2007, Kent CCC took the Twenty20 Cup for the first time since its formation, after defeating favourites Gloucestershire in a nervous and uneven final. With the recent successes of Kent and the Spitfires, the club shows no signs of retreating from its historic place as one of England’s key cricketing counties.
Champion County: Winners (1837, 1843, 1847, 1849)County Championship: Winners (1906, 1909, 1910, 1913, 1970, 1977 (Shared), 1978)Gilette/ NatWest/ C&G Cup/ FP Trophy: Winners (1967, 1974)National Sunday League: Winners (1972, 1973, 1976, 1995, 2001)Benson & Hedges Cup: Winners (1973, 1976, 1978)Twenty 20 Cup: Winners (2007)
- Highest Team Score: 803 – 4 vs. Essex (1934)
- Worst Bowling Performance: 671 – 0 vs. Hampshire (2002)
- Highest Individual Batting Score: 332 (W. H. Ashdown vs. Essex, 1934)
- Best Bowling: 10-48 (C.H.G. Bland vs. Sussex, 1899)
- Best Match Bowling: 7-48 (C. Blythe vs. Northamptonshire, 1907)
- Most First-class Runs: 47868 (F. Woolley)
- Most First-Class Wickets: 3340 (T. Freeman)