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Cricket: Kent captain Billings critical of schedule

PUBLISHED: 15:38 22 August 2019

Sam Cook of Essex celebrates taking the wicket of Zak Crawley during Kent CCC vs Essex CCC, Specsavers County Championship Division 1 Cricket at the St Lawrence Ground on 20th August 2019

Sam Cook of Essex celebrates taking the wicket of Zak Crawley during Kent CCC vs Essex CCC, Specsavers County Championship Division 1 Cricket at the St Lawrence Ground on 20th August 2019

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Kent captain Sam Billings has criticised the county fixture scheduling following his side's three-wicket Specsavers County Championship defeat to Essex on Tuesday.

Mitchell Claydon of Kent celebrates bowling out Tom Westley during Kent CCC vs Essex CCC, Specsavers County Championship Division 1 Cricket at the St Lawrence Ground on 20th August 2019Mitchell Claydon of Kent celebrates bowling out Tom Westley during Kent CCC vs Essex CCC, Specsavers County Championship Division 1 Cricket at the St Lawrence Ground on 20th August 2019

The 168th Canterbury Week match - shoehorned into the fixture list either side of Vitality Blast T20 qualifying games - finished a day early after the visitors skittled Kent in their second innings inside 18.1 overs for a paltry 40: their lowest total on the ground since 1847.

Billings refused to use the fixturing as an excuse for his side's poor batting, but he did concede that the quick switch in formats had not helped either side as 26 wickets fell in a day.

"It's shocking, isn't it really? For both sides. It doesn't help the quality of first-class cricket in England any which way," said the 28-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman.

"Twenty20 and first-class cricket are completely different games. It's the same for both sides and that's not an excuse at all, but for the good of the county game it's not right.

Fans show lots of interest in Kents record breaking wicket during Kent CCC vs Essex CCC, Specsavers County Championship Division 1 Cricket at the St Lawrence Ground on 20th August 2019Fans show lots of interest in Kents record breaking wicket during Kent CCC vs Essex CCC, Specsavers County Championship Division 1 Cricket at the St Lawrence Ground on 20th August 2019

"It's completely brainless in my opinion. How you can expect people to transform their game just like that - it's not right."

Billings added: "I'll probably get told off for saying that, but it's the right thing to say.

"Just put the white-ball cricket in a block and it makes it far easier for the players. Every single player you talk to will say the same thing.

"For the good of spectators coming to Canterbury Cricket Week, that's the least they could do."

Billings, who contributed one and nought on his season's County Championship debut, said that the Essex bowlers made the best of conditions to dismiss the hosts inside 86 minutes. However, he believes Kent's batsmen might have done more by way of counterpunching.

"It's just small margins," he added. "Sam Cook bowled exceptionally well and Mohammad Amir has done it on the international stage for years and they both bowled exceptionally well.

"I wasn't there for long. Amir swung one back and nearly hit me on the pad, then I got a good ball that bounced. If I faced that ball 10 other times I'd do exactly the same thing and he'd get me out.

"I'm not going to lose any sleep over it, it's just hugely frustrating. There has to be a way of combating someone like a Sam Cook, who is just like many other medium-pacers who appear hugely effective when they come to Canterbury.

"Darren Steven's record here is exceptional, and they are the most effective bowlers at Canterbury in four-day cricket. But there must be a way of putting them under pressure.

"If you let people like that just bowl the whole time, then things like that happen if the conditions suit. The new ball did so much, but then all of a sudden we saw how flat it got once it got softer."

Second-placed Spitfires return to Vitality Blast South Group action on Friday when they welcome Surrey to the Spitfire Ground, St Lawrence for a 7pm start.

Kent will be without the injured Adam Milne and Grant Stewart, while Mohammad Nabi has returned home after his 10-game stint.

Matt Walker, the head coach, confirmed that the club made an unsuccessful enquiry over the availability of Matt Henry, last season's leading wicket-taker, and that his quest to find an overseas 'locum' for the remaining four games was proving difficult.

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