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

The Best T20 Bowler There Never Was

Throwback Thursday


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 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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