Ten years ago this month sees the anniversary of the greatest moment in Sussex’s history.
At 1.44pm on the second afternoon of their Championship match against Leicestershire at Hove, Murray Goodwin pulled a ball from Phil DeFreitas for four. It secured Sussex their sixth bonus point of the game and their first County Championship title after 164 years of trying.
That moment will never be surpassed for the sheer unbridled joy it brought to those who took part and everyone beyond the boundary rope privileged enough to be present on that sunny, late summer’s afternoon at The County Ground.
As the ball rattled to the boundary the near full-house crowd rose as one. Many of the spectators hadn’t been at Hove for years. Some lived far away, even abroad. But Hove had been the place where they had grown to love the game as youngsters and they had to make the pilgrimage for the most significant moment in the history of the county. Many were in tears as the PA system blared out that hoary old county anthem ‘Sussex by the Sea’ and the rest of the squad flooded onto the outfield to join Goodwin and skipper Chris Adams, who fittingly was at the other end when Goodwin struck the most important four of his career.
What followed will never be forgotten and as Sussex supporters remember the triumph a decade on the memories are still crystal-clear. President Jim Parks came onto the outfield with champagne and the bemused umpires allowed the Sussex squad to take a triumphant lap of honour.
Clear-eyed is probably not the description that could be applied to the squad the following morning after a long night of celebration in the Sussex Cricketer pub when players and staff joined supporters in the reverie.
“I was still drunk when I turned up at the ground and I think most of the other players were,” remembers Jason Lewry. “I remember having to keep running off the field to go to the toilets next to the old hospitality areas.”
Incredibly, Lewry summoned up the energy to take eight Leicestershire wickets in the second innings. “It was a bribe basically,” he smiles. “It meant we won the game in three days and got a much-needed day off although the celebrations went on for several weeks.”
Let's hope for more of the same in 2014!