By Neil Fissler
The banning from Test cricket of Derek Underwood, Bob Woolmer and Asif Iqbal was probably the best thing that could have happened to Kent in 1978.
The trio were banned from the international scene for taking part in the Packer Series which meant that they were available to Kent for the entire season.
And they were to play key roles in Kent going one better than in the previous season when they shared the Championship with Middlesex.
Kent also won the 1978 Benson & Hedges Cup with John Shepherd taking 4-25 at Lord’s as Derbyshire were dismissed for 147 in a six-wicket defeat. Underwood took 110 first-class wickets in 1978 while Woolmer scored 1,206 runs and Iqbal, who had stood down as captain in 1977, scored 934 runs.
Essex, meanwhile, who had beaten Kent by an innings in May, suffered with Graham Gooch and John Lever spending half of the summer away on international duty with England.
Chris Tavare coming in at No.3 was the highest run scorer for Kent that season with 1,335 but missed out on England selection. While the promotion of Charles Rowe to opener after he missed almost the first month of the season through injury was an inspirational decision from new skipper Alan Ealham.
Rowe scored 980 runs in the Championship after he was asked to open against Pakistan in a tour match and made 85.
“It was a slight change of role for me. I was injured for the first month or so of the season. I got some runs for the 2nd XI but then they tried me as an opening batsman for the first time,” said Rowe.
“I had quite a reasonable time opening the batting with Bob Woolmer which was the first time that I had done it and I was quite consistent and managed to get over 1,000 runs in all forms.
“I think I needed to get ten runs in the last match against Sussex and I believe I got a 50 in the second innings.
“Until then I was a bit of a middle order player who played shots but then I thought my job was to protect the middle order from the new ball.
“We had Tavare at No.3, Asif at No.4 with Alan Ealham at five, or something like that. They were very good players given the chance.
“Even though Asif wasn’t captain he had a strong effect and helped out Alan quite well. Overall we played pretty solidly.
“Even though we shared the Championship in 1977 we still regarded it as winning the thing.”
Brian Luckhurst: England batsman who also served Kent as coach and marketing manager and then manager of the Ames Levett sports centre at Canterbury. He was club president when he lost a battle with cancer in March 2005, aged 66.
Nick Kemp: All rounder who also played for Middlesex. Went into wealth management and is now the co-founder of Stoneford Associates, a specialist renewables consultancy. Son Ben played for Oxford University.
Charles Rowe: A Hong Kong born all rounder who also spent a season with Glamorgan. He moved into the City in 1984 with Rowe and Pitman (Warburgs) and worked in equity sales for the Matrix Group when he retired in 2010. His son James has also played for Kent.
Richard Hills: Medium pace bowler has coached at Eltham College and Sevenoaks School and now plays golf with Rowe and Shepherd.
Kevin Jarvis: Fast-medium pace bowler who settled in Pill, Bristol, after ending his career with Gloucestershire and for a long time after finishing playing he was a house husband.
Chris Tavare: An England opening batsman who studied zoology at university. He returned to his native Kent after finishing his career at Somerset and works as a biology teacher at his alma mater, Sevenoaks School, where he is also teacher in charge of cricket.
Paul Downton: A wicketkeeper who played in Test matches and one-day internationals for England. His career was ended when he was caught in the eye by a bail. He became a stockbroker at Cazenove & Co. Now lives in Sevenoaks and is the managing director of England cricket.
Grahame Clinton: A batsman who also opened the batting for Surrey and went on to coach both Surrey and Kent before becoming master in charge of cricket at Colfe’s School, in Greenwich, London. His son, Richard, was also a batsman with Surrey.
Colin Page: Served Kent as cricket manager between 1975 and 1980 and then for ten years as director of youth coaching until his death in Tunbridge Wells, December 1990, aged 60.
Bob Woolmer: All rounder who also played for England. A sales rep for ICI before turning professional and taught in Kent and South Africa. He was Pakistan coach at the time of his mysterious death during the World Cup in March 2007, aged 58.
David Nicholls: An opening batsman who also kept wicket. He went onto work for sports company Lillywhite Frowd, based in Tonbridge. He died in Dartford June 2008, aged 64.
Derek Underwood: Left arm spinner Deadly took 297 Test match wickets for England and went to work for the Turf Club where he became director of sales until retiring in 2012.
Alan Ealham: Batsman and fine fielder who became Kent’s director of youth coaching. He coached King’s School and Junior King’s School for ten years before his retirement. His son Mark played for Kent and England.
Graham Johnson: Opening batsman and useful off-break bowler. He has spent 30 years in financial services and the sports and events sectors. The brother-in-law of the late Graham Dilley.
John Shepherd: All-rounder with Kent, Gloucestershire and West Indies. Cricket professional at Eastbourne Collage and then ICC Regional Development Officer for the Americas region. Also worked for a travel company, escorting England cricket tours.
Asif Iqbal: Batsman who played for Kent and Pakistan. He has served the ICC as a match referee and ambassador. He ran the Cricketers’ Benefit Fund Series and was sports co-ordinator with ARY Digital in London.
Claude Lewis: Played for the county on either side of World War Two. He was coach and scorer until his retirement in 1988. He died in April 1993, aged 84.