Cricket: Billings hails Kent’s ‘special cameraderie’ in season of success

What the garden looked like before
PACE ACE Matt Henry was the leading wicket-taker in the country

KENT captain Sam Billings hailed his side’s achievement in securing promotion in the County Championship as a ‘monumental effort’.

Billings, who was born in Tunbridge Wells and played for Hartley in the Kent League, took over the reins following the departure of Sam Northeast to Hampshire.

In his first season in charge he led the squad to their first promotion to the top flight in 11 years, a Lord’s final in the Royal London Cup and a Twenty20 Blast quarter-final.

Kent missed out on the Despite missing out on the Division Two title after succumbing to an innings defeat by Warwickshire in a winner-takes-all last game of the season.

But they notched up 10 wins – the most by any team in the division and equal only with Surrey, the overall county champions.

“Winning promotion has been a monumental effort from everyone within the club,” said Billings. “It’s been a squad effort, a lot of guys playing for each other and everyone within the club, on the field and off it, all moving in the same direction.”

The successful season came after major upheavals at the club – and not just the departure of the highly rated Northeast.

Legendary South African paceman Allan Donald finally arrived as Assistant Head Coach after overcoming work permit issues.

Ben Green took over as chief executive following the departure of Jamie Clifford and former Kent wicketkeeper and England managing director Paul Downton was appointed director of cricket.

The recruitment of Heino Kuhn, the South Africa batsman, as their Kolpak signing and Matt Henry, the New Zealand fast bowler, as overseas player were to prove inspirational.

Henry was leading wicket-taker in the country in the four-day game with 75 scalps at an average of just 15.48. Kuhn was similarly dominant in the 50-over format with 696 runs, averaging 87.

“The team camaraderie has been nothing like I’ve experienced at Kent before,” added Billings. “It’s been very special and shows how far we’ve come as a club in general.

It’s not just been one bloke performing, it’s been a case of everyone chipping in. A fantastic squad effort.”

It was a season to remember too for Joe Denly, who as acting captain led the side to crucial early championship wins while Billings was playing in the Indian Premier League.

The top-order batsman and leg-spinner was the Professional Cricketers’ Association’s Players’ Player of the Year and Most Valuable Player.

He was called up for England’s tour to Sri Lanka and hopes to make his Test debut next month.

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