Middlesex v Sussex Division Two Cricket at Lords Another way of life?

Many years ago I used to regularly go to the County Ground at Hove and watch Sussex Cricket Club play. I was a member. Those were the days. John Snow and Imran Khan (now Pakistan Prime Minister) were the bowlers. I cannot remember who the batsmen were. I used to watch the greats like Vivien Richards, Ian Botham, Tony Greig and so many others play.

I hadn't been to a county 5 day game in years. Well, so long that they are now apparently 4 day games. I have been to a few one day games in various formats and even recall being at Lords to see Sussex beat Lancashire in a one day final but not to a county match over a number of days.

Lords is not far away and Sussex have been playing well recently. I saw them win on the tv in a one day game away at Durham to qualify for the finals day at Edgbaston in the Vitality T20 series and decided to go along. I missed the first day due to other commitments but the game was finally balanced at the end of the first day.

I am a season ticket holder at Queens Park Rangers and am used, as a football supporter, to being treated like a second class citizen. How refreshing it was to go to a cricket match. I could order alcohol and drink it watching the game. What is that about? Oh and there was no segregation of supporters. Behind me were a group of friends drinking their beer - some were Middlesex supporters and some were Sussex supporters. All very civilised.

For my foreign friends who are reading this and do not understand cricket, it is not that difficult to understand. There are two teams and they have two innings (turns at batting).

Each bowler bowls the ball (throws it) for an over. An over is 6 throws of the ball. At the end of the over, another bowler has 6 throws of the ball, and bowls from the other end. The bowler throws the ball towards the wicket - three wooden stumps (sticks) with bails on them. The bails are bits of wood that rest on the stumps. The bowler tries to hit the stumps. If he does it, the batsman is out. Each batsman has one innings (turn at batting). There are eleven players in each team. You need to have two batsmen as a minimum so when 10 men are out, the whole team is out. Bowlers get batsmen out by hitting the stumps, getting the batsman to hit the ball or getting one of the fielders (the players not in the team batting) to catch the ball before it hits the ground. Another way of getting a batsman out is lbw - leg before wicket. Basically the batsman gets in the way of the wicket and stops the ball hitting the stumps. There is a rope boundary. Hit the ball on the ground as far as the boundary and the batsman scores 4 runs. Hit the ball over the boundary without touching the ground and the batsman scores 6 runs. Hit the ball and run between the two wickets (sets of wooden stumps) and the batsman scores one run for each time that he runs between them. There is an area where the batsman stands (the crease). If a fielder hits the stumps with the ball when the batsman is not behind the crease, the batsman is out.

It is all very simple. Each side has two turns at bowling and batting and the game is supposed to last up to 4 days. The weather can affect the game. You cannot bowl in the rain. And sometimes the game is over without both teams having their two innings because of the weather.

The winning team is the one with the most runs who gets the other team bowled out for the two innings. Sometimes the game is over within the 4 days. Other times 4 days is not enough for a team to be bowled out twice. So you can get a game that lasts 4 days and there is no result. Cricket is a lot more complicated than that and is affected by things like spin, the condition of the ground, and the condition of the ball. Some bowlers bowl (throw the ball) fast. Others throw it slowly and make the ball spin. There is a special way of throwing the ball (a delivery) but I am trying to keep this as simple as possible.

Lords the ground where the match was played prides itself on being The Home of Cricket. It is where cricket was first played. There is a Members area at Lords - the Pavilion area. Only Members can go there. They wear jackets and ties. Very difficult to become a Member. I walked past the Members area. Lots of white elderly faces and lots of posh accents. Not the most multicultural of areas. In fact county cricket does not seem to be anything other than a sport for middle class and upper class (mainly upper class) white supporters. I am sure that there were a few working class supporters in the ground, but they did not stand out. I checked my photos. I saw mainly white men. A few non English people were in the ground but they provided the security at the entrances, served refreshments, or were in the teams playing on the pitch. With VERY few exceptions they were NOT spectators!

Lords is most definitely a bastion of privilege and attending a cricket match there was like going back over a century. St John's Wood (the area where the ground is located) is a million miles from the London where I live! And the Eton educated cricket commentator Henry Blofeld is leaving Chelsea for Spain because he thinks London is "horribly violent". These people do not know what the real world is like!

Sussex player Philip Sale fielding
Haines bowling for Sussex
Archer bowling for Sussex
Caught by a Sussex fielder, Briggs - just!
Sussex fielder Briggs
David Wiese bowling for Sussex

The match itself was very exciting. At the end of Day One Middlesex looked like they were going to win. Sussex clawed the match back on Day Two and at the end of the first innings, led by two runs. It was a close match.

Sussex all rounder Haines prepares to bowl

Some early wickets (that is the term for batsmen getting out for my foreign friends) for Sussex at the start of the Middlesex second innings made it look like Sussex would win.

Sussex batsman Philip Salt looks on as a Surrey batsman hits the ball for a four.

And then Middlesex fought back and it looked like they would win. At the close of Day Two Middlesex looked certain to win.

And then on Day Three Sussex got some early Middlesex wickets and the match looked very different. Sussex looked certain to win. Certainty and cricket do not go together. And so it proved. Middlesex got some runs and set Sussex an easy target.

The easy target for Sussex became more and more difficult as Sussex lost wickets. With one wicket left Sussex looked down and out. But a phenomenal last wicket stand meant that on Day Three tea was delayed and Middlesex fans started to look at the clouds gathering. Could the match be rained off, or could Sussex do the unthinkable and win at the death. After all the excitement, the match ended on Day Three with Middlesex worthy winners. Sussex were to lose their second place in the table to Kent and Middlesex after the win left themselves with an outside chance of finishing in the top two and being promoted.

The ground was far from full but the empty seats that you see in the photos of because those stands were closed. I was taking photos from a stand that was open for spectators. Those spectators are not in the photos. Also, England were playing a Test Match (for my foreign friends that is an International Match) against India which was being televised. I suspect that some fans had stayed at home to watch that match on the tv.

Precocious young talent Delray Rawlins for Sussex

Delray Rawlins is a wonderful cricketer who was rested for Sussex in the match against Middlesex. He came on for a brief period on Day Two as a substitute fielder. Perhaps if he had played Sussex would have won the match. Ifs and Buts.... That is what sport is all about. Just heard (Thursday 6th September) that Sussex have thrashed Leicestershire inside 3 days and have gone back to second in the table. Until of course Kent win their game. It is going to be an interesting few weeks. And Surrey who were playing in the 2nd Division last season look like they are going to win the 1st Division this season. That would never happen in football!.

Philip Salt batting for Sussex


Philip Pound www.philippound.co.uk

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