Sadly, nobody is going to be able to claim that Gary Ballance hitting 165, Ed Joyce a century or Adil Rashid taking three wickets to re-stake his claim to at England shirt was the most dramatic thing to happen in Sussex today. Radio Sussex was broadcasting non stop from the site in Shoreham where an airshow plane had crashed into the A27 as we made our way away from Hove on the same road but in the other direction. If nothing else it was an up close reminder that for all the fun and glory sport brings it is never more important than life and death.
This was my younger lad’s first cricket match of any kind and my first attendance at a Championship match this century. This is the four day kind of cricket and even on the weekend you’re meant to regard a crowd as meaning ‘I had to share my row with someone else’. Not so today, swelled by Yorkshire-ists and fine weather bringing out their own supporters, Sussex had a more than decent number of people looking on as they attempted to get much needed points in their battle against the drop to Division 2. The visiting White Rose sit atop the table, 36 points clear (it’s 24 maximum for a win) and with a game in hand. Their supporters had more positive reasons to applaud.
We arrived just in time for the second over which means we were settled into the busy main stand when Gary Ballance turned his overnight 98* into a century; Bresnan soon followed with a 50. The stand, for the seventh wicket, eventually worth 197 was part of a Yorkshire total of 494. It could have been higher but the Yorkies decided that comedy run outs would feature. My lad, although genuinely interested in everything else too, was particularly pleased to see stumps fly. He was less pleased that our lunchtime knockabout on the outfield was delayed by 30 minutes whilst Sussex failed to prise apart the final wicket stand until the very last second.
In the afternoon session, the home team fought hard. Ed Joyce showed positive intent and a sub two-hour session ended with the visitors having a ‘solid’ (I, with the aid of a nice woman keen to indoctrinate my son into the ways of cricket lore, finding the right terms for a ‘century stand with no wickets but when the opposition have a big score of their own’) start. It wasn’t to last as in the evening session the close calls but no wickets that Sidebottom and Bresnan had endured became wickets for Adil Rashid (3/67 for the day) and Liam Plunkett. Joyce made his century (we’d gone by then) but then got out. Sussex ended on 175/4. A long way behind but with six wickets left. They will be hoping for rapid scoring and fair weather if they are to get the win they need. A draw may be most likely though given the weather forecast.
All in all, it was a wonderful day for us in Hove. The sun shone brightly, the wind blew gently and the cricket (and crowd) entertained. We had two announcements over the tannoy worthy of note. The first asked whether anyone had located Dickie Bird’s cap. There was laughter. The second told us about a major incident on the A27. There was a realisation that for all the emotion we have at a match, it is just a game.