Yorkshire’s visit to Arundel next week is shaping up to be one of the highlights of the season, despite the absence from both teams of their best players because of the First Test at Lord’s.
It will be Yorkshire’s third visit to the Castle Ground for a Championship fixture. They were last here in 2006 when Sussex won by an innings and 25 runs, accompanied by much grumbling from a sizeable contingent of their supporters angered that their side’s somewhat supine surrender inside three days robbed them of a day’s cricket.
Former England captain Michael Vaughan, attempting a comeback from persistent knee trouble, played what turned out to be his last match of the season as Murray Goodwin scored 235 and Chris Adams 107 for Sussex.
Yorkshire would have lost even quicker but for an unbeaten 130 by Darren Lehmann, however the current Australia coach still has fond memories of Arundel after a sensational innings when the sides met four years earlier, which produced a nerve-shredding finale.
Sussex had a first-innings lead of 137 and Yorkshire were 112 for 3 when Lehmann joined forces with Michael Lumb to transform their fortunes, adding 238 for the fourth wicket. ‘Boof’ had actually been dismissed for 17 by a Mark Robinson no ball and Lehmann made Sussex pay dearly with 216 including 25 fours and a six.
All of which left Sussex, who had been handicapped by the absence of James Kirtley and Jason Lewry from their bowling attack for the first time since 1997, to score 322.
Their sole aim on the last day was survival but when last man Robinson, who had no great pretensions as a batsman, as a first-class career average of 4.01 attests, walked out to join Matt Prior, there were still two overs remaining. Amidst much tension and with Yorkshire fielders clustered around his bat, Robinson blocked out 11 balls at the end and Sussex escaped with a draw.
Talking of escapes, there was a strong police presence on the second day amid fears that an escapee from nearby Ford Prison had melted into the crowd!
As well as being one of the most picturesque cricket grounds in the world, matches there invariably produce real drama. Let’s hope for more when the Festival starts this Sunday with a NatWest T20 Blast match against Somerset.