Sussex head to Arundel Castle next week for five days of cricket and this year’s festival marks a special anniversary as it’s 25 years since the county first went there to play Championship fixtures.
Over the years, the wickets there tend to be a touch on the slow side, although after the traumas Sussex batsmen have experienced at Hove this season, when they have only scored one century between them in four games, a surface where the ball isn’t pinging around their earholes could be just what they need to restore confidence and form.
Slow pitches have produced attritional cricket at times but in such a timeless setting no one seems to mind too much. And it doesn’t mean that there has been a lack of drama over the past quarter-century.
Back in 1994 Sussex won there for the first time against Middlesex thanks to an inspired debut by local lad Jason Lewry, who went on to take 600 wickets for the county. On the first day Lewry took 4 for 40, his victims including former England captain Mike Gatting.
Another high-class operator, New Zealander Chris Cairns, produced the best bowling performance on the ground a year later. Surrounded as it is by trees, the Castle Ground has often been a haven for bowlers who can get the ball to move through the air and Cairns ended up with 15 for 83 as Nottinghamshire shredded Sussex in two days. The visitors’ Tim Robinson, the former England opener, took advantage of the unscheduled day off by umpiring in a club game down the road at Arundel CC.
Sussex won their in two of their Championship winning seasons of 2003 and 2007 at Arundel while current Head Coach Mark Robinson enjoyed one of his finest moments as a batsman in 2005, defying his former county Yorkshire for 11 balls and 18 minutes as Sussex clung on for a draw with nine wickets down.
Batsmen have prospered too. In that same game Darren Lehmann of Yorkshire, who will be here soon for the Ashes as Australia coach, smashed a brilliant 216, although that is not the highest score on the ground. Sussex’s Murray Goodwin made 235 a year later against the same opposition, one of 28 hundreds scored at Arundel.
Whatever happens, watching cricket there from the grass banks which hug two sides of the ground is always a treat. When the sun is out there are few better places to be in England to enjoy the summer game than the Duchess of Norfolk’s back garden.