All over the south-east corner of England, cricket fans are wandering around in a daze - like survivors of a bomb blast. Vacant stares aplenty, and a wide eyed glazed expression like someone trying to come to terms with something utterly inexplicable. (Like Americans trying to get their head around the possibility of Sarah Palin becoming Vice-President)
Sometimes you'll get a muttered comment, though more often communication has been via the semi-anonymous medium of text message. Whatever the means, the message is the same - 'Kent are down - how the f*** did that happen?'
What makes the whole thing so shocking, and therefore doubly traumatic, is that there was no real early warning. There hasn't been the season long struggle to avoid the drop that would have inoculated us against the horrors of the past few days. In fact, had they sealed a game against Lancashire the week before - a game they dominated for ninety percent of it's duration, they would have been in the running for the title before the Durham debacle. Likewise, taking the last Yorkshire wicket earlier in September at Scarborough would have produced the same scenario.
The other thing is the fact that we've been ripping Surrey all year for how incompetent they've been, yet now the final votes have been counted, we've ended the season in exactly the same position as the SE11 Incompetents - no trophies, and facing life in the lower tier of both competitions next season. Hubris OD of massive proportions.
In bullet point format, the season summary is, therefore -
- 20/20 - beaten finalists
- 50 over knockout - beaten finalists
- 40 over league - missed promotion in the last game
- Championship - relegated in the last game
Add in the contrived snub from the organisers of the 20/20 international tournament (still no satisfactory explanation), and Durham getting off scot free after preparing a horrendous pitch for the championship match at Chester-le-Street, and it's all a bit of a mess.
So - how the f*** did it happen? Here are three reasons; -
- Ultimately, the team morale, so strong all season, finally collapsed at the most inopportune time. Rob Key is an emotional man and leads the side very emotionally. His 'circle the wagons - everyone's against us' mentality worked wonderfully well for most of the season, but eventually the shtik became tired, the magic wore off and there was no other, more sober, message to fall back on.
- Martin Van Jaarsveld's performances papered over the batting cracks. He was scoring hundreds almost at will, but there was no one else prepared to step up to the plate when the pressure was really on. To my mind, Joe Denly had a disappointing season, the result of which is that he's now got to try and force his way into the England reckoning from Division 2. Not impossible, but not easy.
- The one-day mentality carried over into the championship. Scores like 300 a/o in 77 overs were the norm - scoring runs at a good lick, but without much due care and attention. More care and obduracy would have got the score to 375 in 120 overs, meaning extra batting points, and less pressure on the bowlers.
More to follow.