The Canterbury fails: are struggling Kent that bad or is it a collective loss of form?

Daniel Bell-Drummond Kent's opening batsman having a lean start to 2021 season

Nathaniel Andreae

It is very rare to have an entire batting line-up out of form. However, Kent's struggles in the 2021 county championship are too stark to ignore. They have broken the 300 mark just three times in 10 innings and in the recent game against Glamorgan scored a cumulative 212 runs in both innings.

For any team this would be unacceptable, but for a team with this batting line-up – on paper very good – it is barely believable.

But are these struggles a sign of a more serious problem or just indicative of the impact of form in cricket?

Let's look at the line up and compare the figures of those that have played this season with their career records.

  • Daniel Bell Drummond (Career FC Average: 32.19, Season Average: 24)
  • Jordan Cox (Career FC Average: 38.17 , Season Average: 31.75 )
  • Zak Crawley (Career FC Average: 32.41, Season Average: 32.25 )
  • Joe Denly (Career FC Average: 36.01, Season Average: 12)
  • Jack Leaning (Career FC Average: 30.19, Season Average: 18.5)
  • Heino Kuhn (Career FC Average: 40.69, Season Average: 18.75)
  • Ollie Robinson (Career FC Average: 30.51, Season Average: 38.28)
  • Darren Stevens (Career FC Average: 34.71, Season Average: 32.85)

Three of the batsmen above are internationals, albeit not experienced in terms of caps, and another two are among the most promising youngsters in the country. This is not a batting line-up that one would predict to have suffered so many failures.

So what is the reason for this sudden and stark lack of runs? Often when a whole team is struggling for runs, you look at the pitches. Canterbury, Kent's home ground, has a slope in the wicket (not unlike the one at Lord's) which has often produced lower scores than other county grounds. However, both teams bat on the same pitch so if the pitch were at fault then both teams would surely score fewer runs than expected, and this has not been the case.

Kent have only kept a side below 300 once this season, and that was in a game that they still lost by 10 wickets. If the opposition are posting sizeable totals, the pitch can't be the problem. One only need look at Lancashire's lower order – where their No 8 and No 9 scored centuries – to see that runs are there for the taking.

To so consistently post such low scores despite a plethora of talent and experience is a painful situation. Unlike almost any other sport, cricket is brutal in the way that as a batsman, one mistake is all it takes for your game to be all but over (or two in a four-day game). And such mistakes have been all too prevalent in Kent's season so far.

Confidence is key: when it is low problems with technique are exacerbated and this seems to be at Kent. None of them (except perhaps Zak Crawley) look comfortable at the crease and it constantly feels as though another wicket or two are just around the corner (which they often are).

This leads to a situation where a batsman who is lacking confidence is facing a bowler whose own confidence is building. Such a cocktail is a perfect recipe for low scores.

There is also a common theme among batsmen of wanting to feel the bat on ball when they are short of confidence. This is a particularly dangerous habit when the ball is moving around in the early months of the English summer. This season it has led to many wickets being lost from balls that did not need to be played at.

An example from this week's round of matches: Kent, who are bottom of their six-team group, were all out for 145 against a Sussex side only a place above them – seven of the batsmen dismissed by offering simple catches from balls that weren't hitting the stumps.

The only way to get yourself out of a bad run and increase confidence is to spend time at the crease and play your way back into form. However, Kent's batsmen are rarely spending the requisite time in the middle to do that.

Crawley stated in an interview recently that there is a difference between being "out of form and out of runs", and that the Kent batsmen are looking good and feeling good in the nets but are just not scoring runs.

My reading of the situation is much more emphatic than that. Kent are a very good side in very bad form. That needs to change if they are to take anything positive from this season.