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Tony Greig

The blond bombshell

Throwback Thursday


This year will mark the 50th anniversary since cricket caught first sight of a player whose profile and performances would illuminate Sussex for the next decade or more – Tony Greig.

Back in the Sixties lots of county pros went to South Africa during the winter in search of coaching and playing work. Counties only paid their players for six months of the year. From October to March they had to fend for themselves.

Jack Oakes, Alan Oakman, Ian Thomson, Richard Langridge and Mike Buss were among the Sussex players who worked at Queen’s College in Cape Town and Buss returned from there in 1965 raving about a 6ft 8in all-rounder with an unmistakable shock of blond hair that, according to Wisden, “gleamed like a golden helmet in the sun.”

Greig had just made his first class debut aged 19 and although he was born and raised in South Africa he was proud of his British roots.

When the offer of a trial at Sussex came, it was his Scottish father who had to decide whether he stayed at home and studied for a BA or head to Hove. “He used to slam into me for not reading enough, for generally being immature,” remembered Greig. “But in the end he grinned and said ‘go over to England and see what you can do – for a year mind.”

What he did in 1966 was take 55 wickets for Sussex seconds while only one batsman scored more than his 362 runs. A full-time contract soon followed. Captain Jim Parks recalled Greig as a big personality, both in physical appearance and self-confidence. “He had so much natural ability and he knew it, although he wasn’t showy in any way. But he was aware that he had a special talent and the ability to make things happen with the bat or ball.”

But could he make the step up to the first team? The answer was an emphatic yes. When he walked out to bat on debut against Lancashire at Hove in May 1967 Sussex were 34 for 3. Greig proceeded to score 156 in under four hours against an attack comprising of three of the best post-War English seam bowlers: Brian Statham, Ken Higgs and Peter Lever. By the end of the summer Greig had scored more than 1,000 runs and taken more than 60 wickets. Unorthodox and untameable but with a fantastic natural talent, Greig was the real deal. A dynamic and fearless cricketer.

Greig gave himself a target of playing for England in six years and when he achieved it in 1972 he was two years ahead of schedule and also Sussex captain. In a career spanning 13 years, which ended in 1978 when he teamed up with the Australian tycoon Kerry Packer to form World Series Cricket, he had scored over 25,000 runs and taken 1,300 wickets either with medium pace or off spin. He played in 58 Tests for England, 14 of them as captain.

This column is nowhere near long enough to do justice to Greig’s talents on the field or the career in cricket he had after retirement. He became an likeable and knowledgeable TV commentator and his death in 2012 of a heart attack, shortly after he had been diagnosed with lung cancer, cast a shadow over the game, none more so than in Sussex. He was a frequent visitor to Hove when in England on broadcasting duties.

Floodlit Cricket

Throwback Thursday


The start of the NatWest T20 Blast tomorrow will give Sussex’s season a real kick-start.

There are few better places to be in the county on a pleasant summer’s evening than the BrightonandHoveJobs.com County Ground during a Twenty20 game under lights.

In other sports such as football playing matches under lights has been the norm for more than 50 years. Cricket took a while to catch on. Floodlight cricket had been played in Australia since the days of Kerry Packer in the late 1970s but the English climate was thought to be unpredictable, although the odd benefit game had been played on football grounds such as Stamford Bridge.

In 1997 the ECB gave permission to three counties, Surrey, Warwickshire and Sussex, to stage 40 over games under floodlights, which were brought in on flat-bed trucks and hoisted into the night sky.

The quality of the lights were poor. Players complained that they struggled to pick up the ball when batting and in the field but there was clearly a public appetite for floodlight cricket.

After Surrey’s attempt to play the first day-night match in the country was thwarted by rain, more than 15,000 people turned up at Edgbaston to watch Warwickshire play Somerset.

Having just taken over the running of the club, Chief Executive Tony Pigott and the Sussex committee were in innovative mood. They totally embraced the concept of floodlight cricket and even rebranded the Sussex team. For the game against Surrey on August 27 1997 they became the Sussex Tigers.

The game itself was one-sided as a much stronger Surrey team cruised to a five-wicket win, but in every other aspect the match was a resounding success. The crowd of more than 4,000 was double the normal attendance for a 40 overs game despite the weather being grey and damp for much of the day. For Pigott, though, the big eye-opener was the make-up of the crowd. There were lots of families in attendance and plenty of youngsters. Cricket was finally being played at a time to suit the new audience it was trying to attract.

The following year Sussex became the first club to install permanent lights and, as the technology improved, the system was upgraded in 2010 after problems in previous years. They failed during a game against Essex in 2007 and again in 2009 when the generator-powered system packed up against Kent and the match had to be abandoned.

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