It’s rare for one long-standing Sussex record to be broken in a game never mind two so it’s no wonder the county’s supporters were dusting off their copies of Wisden at the weekend after a debut to remember for 21-year-old Ollie Robinson.
Signed just a few days earlier after impressing in the second team, Robinson became the first Sussex batsman to score a hundred on debut in the County Championship since 1920 while his last-wicket partnership with Matthew Hobden (whose career-best 65 was somewhat overshadowed) of 164 was the highest in Sussex’s history, beating a record lodged by Harry Butt and George Cox Senior that had stood for 107 years.Cox and Butt. It sounds like a firm of Sussex solicitors but in the years before the First World War they were involved in two heroic last-wicket stands.
The 156 they put on against Cambridge University at Fenner’s in 1908 might be scoffed at nowadays but back then the student teams often provided players for England and were as strong as most county sides.
Two years earlier, when Sussex played neighbours Hampshire at Chichester, Cox and Butt scored 113 together.
Cox was one of the finest cricketers Sussex produced in the first half of the 20th century. He would often come in down the order, sometimes even at No.11, but as his place in the record books attest he was a terrific competitor with the bat, who sold his wicket dearly.
Until last Sunday, his name figured in the best three stands for Sussex’s last wicket, the 130 he put on with George Stannard against Essex in 1919 being the county record in the Championship until Robinson and Hobden came together at Durham last Sunday.
Cox, whose son George Junior also played for Sussex, was first and foremost a bowler, good enough to take 1,810 wickets between 1895-1928, a tally beaten only by the great Maurice Tate. He once took 17 wickets in a match at his club ground, Horsham, having walked to the ground every day from his home in nearby Warnham and sweated off a celebratory pint or two at the end of each day’s play in a rudimentary sauna at the back of his house he built himself.
Bearing in mind the tenth wicket record stood since 1908 it could be a while before the efforts of Robinson and Hobden are beaten. After such an outstanding performance they deserve their place in the history books for a few years anyway.