Tunbridge Wells Cricket Festival awaits the ‘new Kallis’

Tunbridge Wells Cricket Festival awaits the 'new Kallis'
STAR QUALITY: Wiaan Mulder led the resistance against champions Surrey PHOTO: Max Flego

Matt Walker’s side achieved promotion to Division One last season for the first time in nine years, as runners-up to Warwickshire.

They completed an impressive victory over Warwickshire early in the season thanks to a century from the emerging former Tonbridge School batsman Zak Crawley.

There was also a stunning hundred from Ollie Robinson, the brightest prospect in the Kent firmament, as the 21-year-old wicketkeeper weighed in with 143 at No 6.

But since then the harsh reality of the better standard of cricket has come to haunt them as they were unable to hold out for draws against Yorkshire – when Robinson scored another century – and Essex.

They did, however, manage to force the draw against champions Surrey in between those two matches, clinging on with 352 for 8 in the fourth innings at Beckenham.

‘I can make contributions with bat and ball, as Jacques did so well for South Africa’

Now they face Division One’s bottom side (at the time of writing) Nottinghamshire, who along with Surrey are the only two sides not to have registered a victory this season.

The man who was influential in that resistance against Surrey was the club’s new overseas recruit, Wiaan Mulder, a 21-year-old all-rounder from South Africa.

Mulder, who made his Test debut in Port Elizabeth in February, has been described as ‘the next Jacques Kallis by the South Africa captain Faf du Plessis.

But despite the comparison with one of the game’s greatest all-rounders the young man from Gauteng is keeping his feet admirably on the ground.

“It’s not something that bothers me to be honest,” said Mulder. “Sure, it’s nice for Faf to say such things, but it’s early in my career and none of us know where we’ll ultimately end up.

“All I intend on doing is going out there and playing my best every game. Being an all-rounder, I can make contributions with bat and ball, as Jacques did so well for South Africa.”

HOT SHOT: Former Tonbridge School pupil Zak Crawley has been in top form PHOTO: Max Flego

Mulder, who has signed up to play seven Championship matches, replaced the Australian batsman Matt Renshaw, who had a poor early season with Kent, averaging 23.6 in his six innings.

He added: “Coming to Kent was quite a sudden thing, but it’s fair to say I’ve always wanted to come and play county cricket.

“I was back home when I got a call that I might be able to come here if I could get an NOC [No-objection Certificate] from the South African Cricket Board.

“That all unfolded within two weeks and I’m happy to say I was delighted to arrive. I’m really loving it, the Kent lads have been amazing and look after me like I’m one of their own, which is rare in world cricket these days.”

Mulder, who made 68 not out in over two hours at Beckenham, said: “I was really proud of the lads against Surrey. Going into the last day already one wicket down, we basically had to defend all day and do what we could to not get bowled out. To get a draw in those circumstances can only be good for morale.”

‘There is a lot of cricket between now and the Ashes so my focus is trying to perform for Kent’

Following his country’s struggles in the World Cup, Wiaan must be wondering if he could make a telling contribution for them in white-ball cricket, having played 10 one-day internationals.

Another who was not required for the global showpiece is Joe Denly, who was left out of England’s World Cup squad after playing three one-dayers against Pakistan last month.

The leg-spinning all-rounder, 33, returned against Essex as interim captain while Sam Billings completes his stint with the Indian Premier League.

“There is no point moping around,” said Denly, who believes he can add to his two Test caps against West Indies over the winter with a comeback for the Ashes later this summer.

“I have to get on with it now and put on some performances for Kent.

“There is a lot of cricket between now and the Ashes so my focus is trying to perform for Kent and the Ashes selection will take care of itself.”

And he’s certainly cheering on his former team-mates despite the disappointment of missing out on selection at the 11th hour.

“That England white-ball team is a special side and the country should be excited about their chances at the World Cup.”

Kent v Nottinghamshire at The Nevill, Monday to Thursday (June 17-20).

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