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Swing when you’re winning: Jason Lewry

King of the seaside swingers

Throwback Thursday


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.”

Don Smith

Don has his day

Throwback Thursday


In this era of big bats and small boundaries phenomenal feats of scoring are pretty commonplace.

England made 400 in a 50 overs international last week, a feat that was unthinkable a decade ago. Who knows? In ten years' time a score of 500 from 50 overs might seem like a throwback to a distant age.

Back in the 1950s scoring 400 runs in a day of County Championship cricket – one-day matches did not start until 1963 – was extremely rare, and a rate of more than three runs an over was considered good progress.

Sussex supporters had seen some wonderful batsmen in the post-war era although it would be fair to say Don Smith was not among the county’s all-time greats. In 1957 Don was 34 and in his 13th season with Sussex. He was also the senior professional and someone greatly admired by his team-mates. A few years earlier he had successfully turned himself into a left-arm medium-pace bowler having previously bowled spin and took 73 wickets in 1955.

Two years later Smith, restored to his best position as opener, went out to bat with Les Lenham after Sussex had been set 267 to beat Gloucestershire in three and a quarter hours at Hove in early May.

After 80 minutes they had scored 81 and the task appeared beyond them – but then Smith transformed the match with what Sussex historian John Marshall described as “an innings of electrifying brilliance.” In 58 balls after tea Smith scored 74 of the 82 runs added from 34 balls as he moved from 48 to 104 in just 19 minutes. When he was finally dismissed for 166, he’d struck 11 fours and nine sixes, most of them landing in the Hove pavilion and one hitting a spectator who needed hospital treatment. Sussex won the game by seven wickets.

Team-mate Jim Parks remembers Smith as “a model professional who was well liked by his colleagues and a player capable of winning a game with something a bit special.” That summer Smith’s form earned him three Test caps against West Indies and although he only managed 25 runs and 1 wicket it wasn’t his last taste of the highest level.

As a coach he looked after Sri Lanka during their formative years in international cricket. Now aged 92, he lives in quiet retirement in Australia, having emigrated several years ago, and is one of Sussex’s oldest living cricketers.

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