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Joe Vine, who scored a century in Sussex’s last match before cricket stopped 100 years ago following the outbreak of War

The Last Match

Throwback Thursday

28-Aug-2014

Next Tuesday, 2 September, marks the anniversary of a significant moment in cricket history when, in 1914, what was to be the last county match for five years finished at Hove.

The First World War was already a month old and while Sussex and Yorkshire played on, with Valence Jupp and Joe Vine both scoring big hundreds for the county, evidence of a country preoccupied with far more important affairs could be seen at the northern end of the ground as army recruits were put through their paces by drill sergeants. During the match, a group of territorials from the Royal Sussex Regiment also undertook a recruiting drive.

It seems staggering, 100 years later, that cricket did not stop the moment War had been declared a month earlier, but the MCC insisted “no good purpose can be saved at the moment by cancelling matches,” not even after the first big skirmish of the conflict – the Battle of Mons – had led to the deaths of 2,000 British soldiers.

MCC secretary Francis Lacey later admitted the committee felt “an outward show of ‘carrying on” should be permitted. After all, he added, most people thought the War would be over that Christmas. The Oval was closed, after the War Office requisitioned it but otherwise, as men rallied to the cause all over the country, cricket carried on.

The authorities finally came to their senses at tea on the third day. Roy Kilner, the Yorkshire batsman, made a half-century, although he confessed afterwards that it meant little to him. It was the last fifty scored in county cricket for five years.

It had taken the intervention of WG Grace to bring the authorities to their senses. Writing in The Sportsman, he said: “I think the time has arrived when the county cricket season should be closed, for it is not fitting that able-bodied men should play day-after-day and pleasure-seekers look on.”

That was on 27 August 1914. All county games were cancelled that day, Sussex v Yorkshire at Hove the last of them. The title was awarded to Surrey.

Over the next six years, Wisden ran the obituaries of 1,800 cricketers who died during the War. Kilner himself was hit by shrapnel during the Battle of the Somme.

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