Cricket: Kuhn returns to lead Kent’s top-flight test

Cricket: Kuhn returns to lead Kent's top-flight test
PROLIFIC: Heino Kuhn scored almost 1,300 runs last season

Kuhn, who celebrated his 35th birthday this week, will be interim captain for the first month of the new campaign while Sam Billings, the club skipper, and Joe Denly, the vice-captain, fulfil their Indian Premier League commitments.

Having spent eight summers in the second division, Kent secured promotion by finishing second behind champions Warwickshire last year.

It was an inspired campaign which featured 10 red-ball wins – matching Division One champions Surrey with the most first-class victories.

Kuhn, a right-handed batsman who had a prolific first season at the county last year, leads the team out for their first game back in the top flight against Somerset in Taunton.

He was at his home in Midsteam Estate, Pretoria, when he got the call from Kent head coach Matt Walker. “It was a nice surprise when he rang me up and asked if I would like the job. I saw it as a privilege and an exciting challenge. I’m truly honoured and I can’t wait to get started.” 

Kuhn has previously captained South Africa A and the Multiply Titans – his domestic franchise – and met up with the squad on their pre-season training camp in South Africa.

“I’ve been hitting the ball pretty well for Titans, I’m averaging 50.40 at the moment. On Sunday we’re playing in our one-day tournament final.

Last year Kuhn amassed almost 1,300 runs across all formats at an average of almost 60.

His run of four Royal London One-Day Cup centuries in five innings also helped propel the Spitfires to their first Lord’s final in a decade.

Former Kent batsman Walker is also relishing the new season ahead, saying: “It will be a challenge, make no mistake about it, but the message we’re trying to get through to the lads is that they’re all here to compete.

“We’re here to win the competition. We’re not going into it simply to survive and we’re not going into it just to play ‘safe’ cricket.

He added: “We never had a blip through the whole of last year and won more games of cricket than any other county.

“If we lost a game, we always bounced back with a win which means we have a lot of belief in the dressing room and trust in our players.

“We should be the team who other club’s look at as an unknown quantity. Some sides, like Surrey and Essex, haven’t played against us for a long time in four-day cricket, so I want us to go into it on the front foot and to challenge these teams.

“I believe we have the talent and skills to compete very strongly in this division.”

While the retention of Kolpak player Kuhn is a big boost for the county, the loss of New Zealand fast bowler Matt Henry could be keenly felt.

The slippery paceman took 75 first-class wickets at an average of 15.48 during two stints at Kent last summer but is unable to return this season.

Matt Renshaw, the 23-year-old Yorkshire-born Australia batsman, will be Kent’s overseas player for the opening block of four-day fixtures.

Matt Milnes, who joined on a three-year deal from Nottinghamshire, and 26-year-old Netherlands’ left-arm paceman Fred Klassen will look to fill Henry’s bowling boots.

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