Su­per Stevens is still pure magic...

Mark Pen­nell sees Kent’s ev­er­green all-rounder Dar­ren Stevens pro­duce yet an­other mas­ter­class

The Cricket Paper - - REVIEW -

With 22 Cham­pi­onship wick­ets, three five-wicket hauls and a re­turn of al­most 300 runs at an av­er­age of 59, it is lit­tle won­der that Kent’s age­less all­rounder Dar­ren Stevens has been de­scribed as the ‘Peter Pan of cricket’ in re­cent weeks.

Dur­ing a stun­ning first month with bat and ball, Stevens’ club skipper Sam North­east even dubbed him Ben­jamin But­ton – after the Brad Pitt movie char­ac­ter who ages in re­verse – while his team-mate, Adam Rouse, sim­ply refers to him as ‘The Ma­gi­cian’. Kent’s mae­stro turns 41 on Sun­day and cur­rently tops the PCA’s Most Value Player county rankings ahead of York­shire’s Ben Coad – who hap­pened to be three when Stevens first trot­ted out for his na­tive Le­ices­ter­shire.

Yet, to Stevens at least, there is no mys­ti­cal an­swer ly­ing be­hind the mag­i­cal start to his lat­est In­dian sum­mer. After tak­ing nine wick­ets and scor­ing a match-defin­ing 90 in his un­de­feated side’s em­phatic, three-day win over Der­byshire, Stevens said: “There are no se­crets to it, I just keep it sim­ple and do the basics right.”

He added: “Bowl­ing wise, and at my pace in par­tic­u­lar, I just go in tight to the stumps, bowl wicket-to-wicket with my mid-on and mid-off straight to pro­tect me against the drive. They are age-old, tried and tested tac­tics.

“As for bat­ting, I feel I have much bet­ter bal­ance at the crease this sea­son. For the past cou­ple of years, I’ve found my­self tum­bling over in my strokes and chip­ping the oc­ca­sional one up in the air. That seems re­solved now.”

After post­ing a mod­est 259 with no half-cen­turies in their first in­nings, Kent’s im­pres­sive seam-bowl­ing unit helped se­cure a com­mand­ing 100-run lead by skit­tling Der­byshire within 62 overs. Stevens bagged six, but new boys Wayne Par­nell and Mid­dle­sex loa­nee James Har­ris proved ex­cel­lent in sup­port.

Reel­ing at 80 for six sec­ond time around, Kent were thank­ful for Stevens’ sea­son’s best 90 and a ca­reer-best, un­beaten 95 by Rouse as they posted 308 to set a tar­get of 409 that proved way be­yond Der­byshire’s compass.

“We showed a lot of guts, de­ter­mi­na­tion and fight, par­tic­u­larly in the sec­ond in­nings. Me and ‘Rousey’ got stuck in and took it to them in what proved to be a match-chang­ing part­ner­ship,” added Stevens.

PIC­TURE: Sarah Ansell

Star with bat and ball: Dar­ren Stevens took nine wick­ets while also pro­duc­ing with the blade in hand, in­set

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