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Sussex in action at Horsham

Sussex's Horsham History

Throwback Thursday

17-Jul-2014

Sussex's Horsham History

Sussex have been going to Horsham for a week of cricket since as far back as 1908.

There have been years since then when there was no game there and this year’s festival, which starts on Monday with a four-day game against Warwickshire and concludes on July 27 when Sussex play Nottinghamshire in the Royal London Cup, only went ahead after an anonymous benefactor stumped up £15,000 to help cover the running costs.

At times the cricket was been breathtaking. Steve Magoffin’s performance last year, when he took 12 for 31 in the two-day win over Somerset, was just the latest in a long line of stellar performances with bat or ball at Cricketfield Road where the wicket and small outfield lends itself to exciting cricket.

It might not be as scenic as Arundel, but the walk from the back of the ground and over the river into Horsham is a stroll always worth taking. To make it you go past the whitewashed cottage in the corner of the ground where Alfred Oakes, who was groundsman at Horsham for 47 years either side of the War, lived. His son Charlie once struck a six into his dad’s own back garden during a match against Surrey.

Horsham tends to produce curious events, as John Boorman’s excellent history book of the festival chronicles. In 1933 local palmist Madam Zelda apologised that she was unable to see all of the clients queuing at her tent.

Boris Karloff was once spotted among the spectators and Field Marshall Montgomery paid a visit to the ground when Sussex played Glamorgan in 1946.

There have some impressive displays of hitting too. The tennis courts at the Town End regularly get peppered but in a Championship match a few years ago Ottis Gibson, the Durham tail-ender, cleared them and the ball landed in the river beyond. A remarkable feat, especially as the great Mushtaq Ahmed was the bowler.

Sussex all-rounder Garth Le Roux once cleared the oak tree at cow corner and, legend has it, his ball landed on the railway that snakes past the ground. It would have to have been some hit but Le Roux, who could certainly tonk the ball a long way, was more than capable.

More than at any time, perhaps, Horsham needs supporting by the Sussex public. Make sure you pay a visit next week to enjoy what is sure to be good cricket and atmospheric and picturesque surroundings.

Single-wicket matches were regularly played in the formative years of Sussex cricket

The Best T20 Bowler There Never Was

Throwback Thursday

10-Jul-2014

The Best T20 Bowler There Never Was

It is nearly 300 years since cricketers from Sussex and Kent first did battle back in 1728 as the game began to put down roots in the South East of England.

If only we had a time machine and could discover just what those early cricketers would make of the modern game and in particular the crash-bang-wallop of Twenty20, with the two counties meeting in the format on Friday night at The BrightonandHoveJobs.com County Ground.

It’s a format where big hitting batsmen excel but it’s not just modern day players, with their big bats and bigger muscles, that could hit the ball a long way.

The first recorded county match between Sussex and Kent took place in 1825, according to the official history of the club, and featured George Brown, who scored 77 and took six wickets.

As well as being a fine cricketer, Brown managed the Royal Brighton cricket ground where Sussex played some of its early matches. A powerful man, Brown was said to possess great stamina.

In a single-wicket game in the early 19th century once he bowled for four-and-a-half hours without a break – 230 balls, off which only eight runs were scored. When he went in to bat he drove his first ball through a gap in the fence and down a lane outside the ground.

His arm was said to be as big as an ordinary man’s leg with muscles to match. When he bowled, such was his ferocious pace that he had to have two back-stops in the days before wicket-keepers. It is said that back-stops would field with a sack of straw attached to their chest to offer extra protection when he bowled.

One report of the time mentioned a game at Lord’s where he played. “A man tried to stop one of Brown’s balls with his coat, but Brown bowled right through it and killed a dog instantaneously on the other side.”

Sounds like the perfect T20 bowler, without the threat to unsuspecting canines of course.

In 51 first-class matches, Brown took 89 wickets at an impressive average of just 11.33. One of the great names of Sussex cricket’s formative years, he lived to the age of 74 and died in Sompting in 1857.


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