Cricket and the seaside have always gone together. Sussex have played at festival grounds like Scarborough, Weston super Mare, Eastbourne, Southport and Hastings while at Swansea, Glamorgan’s old-timers used to reckon that when the tide was rolling in the ball would start to swing all over the place at the St Helen’s ground a six hit across the Mumbles Road from the beach.
No county headquarters is closer to the sea than Hove. From certain vantage points it is possible to see the English Channel, two or three six hits away admittedly. And while the condition of the pitch does not alter much when the tide comes in or out it can certainly do funny things when a sea mist or fret rolls up towards Eaton Road.
That was certainly the case on a Saturday morning in early July 2001. In fact there had been a muggy atmosphere on the first day, ideal for swing bowlers such as Jason Lewry. When his captain, Chris Adams, won the toss and put Hampshire in the left-armer took 6 for 37 as the visitors were hustled out for 81.
It was a magnificent performance but nothing compared to what happened 24 hours later.
Sussex, having shown more application against a ball which was still swinging around, led on first innings by 221 runs and when Adams threw Lewry the new ball with spectators on one side of the ground barely able to see across to the other he produced one of the most spectacular performances in Sussex’s history.
With his third, fourth and fifth balls of his first over Lewry performed the second hat-trick of his career as Derek Kenway was caught at slip and Will Kendall and Robin Smith fell leg before as Hampshire slumped to 1 for 3.
In the course of Hampshire’s two innings he had taken seven wickets in 13 balls, having mopped up their tail in the first innings. His feat had only been bettered once, ironically against Sussex, by Surrey spinner Pat Pocock at Eastbourne in 1972. What is it about seaside grounds that produces these remarkable cameos?
Hampshire recovered to 42 for 3 but then Lewry returned to have Dimitri Mascerenhas caught in the gully in his seventh over. In his next he picked off three more batsmen from the second, fourth and fifth balls. There was no double hat-trick as the next ball sailed down the leg side but Lewry finished with remarkable match figures of 13 for 79 as Sussex won in four sessions.
“That was the thing about Jason,” remembers Adams. “When conditions were right he could get the best batsmen in the world out. That day he was unplayable but it was quite weird playing in a mist like that. I’m sure the umpires, Pete Willey and Ray Julian, thought about coming off but they were enjoying watching Jason bowl too much.”