Viljoen proving to be a real impact for Kent

PUBLISHED: 08:39 23 July 2019 | UPDATED: 08:39 23 July 2019

The Spitfire Ground St Lawrence

The Spitfire Ground St Lawrence

Ady Kerry

Kent’s Kolpak recruit Hardus Viljoen has made such an impact during his opening brace of Vitality Blast appearances that Spitfires’ fans are already wondering if the big paceman will end the season playing red-ball cricket for the county.

The 30-year South African, who won his only Test cap for the Proteas against England three years ago, enjoyed a short stint in the Garden of England back in 2016 before turning Kolpak to join Derbyshire on a three-year deal.

After an injury-hit first season at The Old Racecourse Ground, Viljoen enjoyed improved performances and sustained fitness in 2018, only to leave the East Midlands' side by mutual consent with a year of his deal still to run.

Derbyshire's loss has been Kent's gain, however, as the right-armer from the Highveld has picked up four wickets and scored useful late-order runs in his opening couple of games since re-joining the Spitfires.

"I think it's always easier to come back to a place that you know, familiar players and an environment you enjoy, so it's been really easy returning to Kent," said Viljoen.

"I must give all credit to Matt Walker, all the coaching staff and the Kent players for creating this great, family environment at the club. It's always good as an outsider to come back and feel how good it is and how much the guys here are enjoying playing.

"There's a professionalism about the place too, and to me, that's one of the major reasons why teams are ultimately successful."

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Feeling fresh and keen to make an impact, Viljoen added: "I've been involved with the right people back home who have put me on the right track fitness wise.

"I've worked with some good people in the last year or two on understanding the physics of the body and doing everything I can as a player to keep myself fit and stay on the park for as long as you can.

"I had eight months or so of full-on cricket in the run-up to the IPL, which I really enjoyed, but since then I've had a couple of weeks of down-time with my family and then started training again about five weeks ago in the build-up to re-joining Kent."

And as for his plans for later this summer, Viljoen, conceded that his options remain open.

"I haven't been in discussions with Kent about it as yet, but if the T20 goes really well then I guess anything can happen," he said.

"There's a long tournament of T20 cricket ahead of us but if an opportunity arises I'd definitely be keen to give it a go and continue my trade here in red-ball cricket. At the end of the day, it's about taking one competition at a time and not looking too far ahead, but I do love championship cricket, to my mind it's one of the best formats around - if not the best.

"Yes, T20s are enjoyable with all the hype around it, but I believe the real test comes when competing in four-day or Test cricket."

Having helped steer Kent to back-to-back south group wins against Somerset and Hampshire, Viljoen and the unbeaten Spitfires return to action on Friday night when they take on the Essex Eagles under the lights at The Spitfire Ground, St Lawrence.

The match is scheduled for a 7pm start.

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