From Upton Park To The St. Lawrence Ground
The loudest groans as Kent were relegated from Division One of the County Championship last season came not from the Spitfires fans but the local constabulary in Canterbury. Because it meant that this year a four-day game against Surrey would be added to the fixture list. And, as we are all too aware, there is no more vicious rivalry in sport than that between two adjacent Home Counties.
So my Surrey crew (two old school friends) and I decided to get ourselves tooled up and head south in search of trouble yesterday for the first day of the match at the St Lawrence Ground. We made sure that we were sporting provocatively Surrey brown, including dark chinos and tan leather brogues.
As we approached the gates it was obvious that a massive police presence had been put in place to counter potential violence between opposing fans. He was eating a Cornish pasty and explaining to a middle-aged lady how to get to Habitat.
Once we’d taken our seats, although of course we stood all day, the announcement came over the PA system that Azhar Mahmood would not be taking his place in the Spitfires eleven. Two seasons ago, Mahmood had done the unthinkable and headed down the M2 to join Kent from the Brown Caps. Obviously it had been decided by the Kent management in conjunction with the police that it would be better if Mahmood stayed away from the ground in case he incited a riot.
It was quiet in the ground in the morning, but we could all sense the simmering tension. I definitely got a funny look from a small boy who was sitting in front of us with his grandpa. We thought it best to split up and search for mischief separately. We could keep in contact via text if we needed to team up again.
Very soon I got a message from my mate saying that something was brewing up over by the Leslie Ames stand with a man in a beige linen suit. Apparently an altercation had ensued after he’d kicked his Thermos over. A Scotch egg may or may not have been thrown.
And over by the tree my other friend was trying to stir something up by splashing some lime cordial into the face of an old lady. He tells me that it was very strong cordial. Disappointingly peace had broken out when the lady had gone back to finishing her crossword.
We then planned a pitch invasion at tea. This was gratifying successful as we were joined by at least a hundred others. Although nearly all of them seemed preoccupied by playing impromptu games of kwik cricket and getting Bob Key’s autograph.
Inevitably we were ejected from the ground. It does have to be said however that this was around two hours after the close of play. We’d fallen asleep. In a way it was good thing to get some zzzs under our belt. We had an early start today to visit the Rupert the Bear Museum.