Super Stevens is still pure magic...
Mark Pennell sees Kent’s evergreen all-rounder Darren Stevens produce yet another masterclass
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.
Star with bat and ball: Darren Stevens took nine wickets while also producing with the blade in hand, inset