Not so long ago this would be the time of year when Sussex would be preparing to take the game to the east of the county and in particular The Saffrons cricket ground at Eastbourne.
First-class cricket was first played there back in 1896 and for more than 100 years afterwards Sussex took Championship cricket to the ground in the centre of the seaside town.
The facilities were fairly rudimentary by modern standards! The cramped dressing rooms were perfectly good enough for cricket clubs of the Victorian and Edwardian era but by the time it staged its last county game in 2000 the players were fed up with the conditions. When Sussex played Northamptonshire in one of the last games at The Saffrons half of the Northamptonshire team changed in a squash court!
Reporters turned up one year to the press box to find the groundsman’s rifle, which he’d used to shoot rabbits on the outfield, propped up in the corner. John Vinicombe, who covered cricket there for the Evening Argus for nearly 40 years, later recalled: “You don’t know how close we were to enjoying some sport with the rifle!”
What The Saffrons did have, for many years at least, was one of the best batting wickets in the country. Touring teams often insisted that a game was scheduled there so their batsmen could find some form.
But the most memorable individual performance at The Saffrons was actually a bowler. Surrey and England off-spinner Pat Pocock broke several records there during a county match in 1972 when he took five wickets in six balls, six in nine and seven in 11 deliveries!
By the end of the 1990s the wicket and facilities at The Saffrons had deteriorated to such an extent that Sussex pulled out of county cricket there. An occasional 2nd XI game has been played there since but there are no plans at the moment to take county cricket back to Eastbourne.