Saturday, April 13, 2024

A day at the cricket: Leicestershire vs Sussex

On Friday I went to see the first day of Leicestershire vs Sussexc in Division 2 of cricket's County Championship.

I had planned it as a sort of existential protest against starting the cricket Championship so early to make room for The Hundred in midsummer. I expected to be wrapped in woollens and sipping a thermos of Bovril. As it turned out, the forecast was for a dry and sunny day.

The weather didn't quite live up to that - the morning was lovely, but it clouded over after lunch and eventually the floodlights came on - yet I've been much colder at cricket matches later in the year than this.

And I met my old council colleague Mark Cox on the gate. It turned out that, just as it was when I was 13, it you're not a member you have to walk down a dismal alley and pay at the other end of the ground.

I don't begrudge county members their privileges: they may be the only people who resist the England and Wales Cricket Board's plans to get rid of half the first-class counties, Leicestershire and Sussex included.

Leicestershire won the toss and batted, with their opener Rishi Patel making a stylish 87. After he was caught behind for 87 early in the afternoon, they found scoring much harder. Sussex did well to keep up their intensity, because the pitch didn't appear to be doing very much. The ended with the game evenly poised: Leicestershire were 326/8, with the stubborn Liam Trevaskis not out on 82.

I went to the cricket here twice in 1973. I saw the a day each of Leicestershire vs Derbyshire and Leicestershire vs Middlesex.

To be honest I don't remember the Derbyshire game at all, beyond speculating with the friend I went with about whether Fred Trueman, who had turned out in the Sunday league for Derbyshire, might be playing, He wasn't.

I must have seen the second day of the Middlesex game because I remember seeing Mike Smith - M.J. Smith- score a century before lunch. It was also one of John Emburey's first games for the county. Despite Smith's feat, Leicestershire went on to win the match comfortably. 

In 1973 Leicestershire were as strong as any county, and their attack was dominated by spin. In the Derbyshire game they fielded two England off spinners - Ray Illingworth and Jack Birkenshaw - and two left-arm spinners - John Steele and Chris Balderstone.

Sussex used only one spinner: Jack Carson from County Armagh.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

When I was at school a friend of mine went for a coaching session at Grace Road with Jack Birkenshaw. His party piece at the end of the session was to leave one stump in the ground with a half crown piece balanced on top of it. Then, armed only with one of the other stumps for a bat, he would invite anyone present to try to bowl him out. Anyone who managed to dislodge the coin got to keep it. According to legend, no-one ever did.