Unicorns 327-4 beat Sussex Sharks 325-4 by 4 wickets – Arundel – Sunday 23rd May 2010
Summer Sunday’s in England – yuck. Honestly, spending all day watching one of the most exciting cricket games played in years in beautiful sunshine drinking beer – give me a cold Tuesday night kick off in December at Waltham Abbey anytime!
OK – I jest with you. Sometimes things just click and produce a perfect day. Today was one such day. Firstly we had the weather. Clear blue skies and temperatures touching the thirties. Then we had the location – Arundel in West Sussex. Home of the Duke of Norfolk (quite why he doesn’t stay in his own county I don’t know) who has his own cricket pitch in the vast grounds and today hosting the Unicorns against the Sharks. Now the Sharks are not new to most – Sussex Sharks are one of the most formidable one day teams boosted by the return of England World Cup Winners Mike Yardy and Luke Wright to join over such one day specialists as Ed Joyce, Murray Goodwin, Joe Gatting and Monty Panesar.
The Unicorns? Not a familiar name to most. In fact they wouldn’t have existed at all if it wasn’t for Ireland deciding to play in the Twenty20 World Cup in the West Indies instead of the Clydesdale Bank tournament. The ECB were left with one team short at the last minute and came up with an idea of putting together a “recreational” team, naming them the Unicorns. Recreational essentially means players not deemed good enough for first class counties, or those still deciding whether to work for a living or play cricket. Last week they upset Glamorgan with a 58 run win in Bournemouth in a game that their ex-captain Steve James called “Embarrassing”.
Arundel is probably one of the finest grounds in the world. It sums up the English game to a tee and when we arrived just after Sussex had put 50 on the board for no loss we quickly rolled out the spread and tucked into lunch as Ed Joyce and Chris Nash made short work of the Unicorn attack. There was little to fault Sussex for in their batting as Yardy hit the lowest score at 36 (off 34 balls). The final partnership of 88 by Goodwin (92 not out from 59 balls) and Gatting 55 off just 29 balls saw them edge past 320 off just 40 overs – more than 8 an over. We predicted a 200 run win for the Sharks, and was even as bold to text such a statement to the master of Sussex Cricket insight, Danny Last.
The girls took some time to believe that they could go and play on the pitch during the half time break, having been indoctrinated by the nanny state in watching football in England. Perfect excuse to have another beer – I hate cricket.
So I set my stopwatch and thought we would be back on the road by 5pm. I was wrong. Despite a very slow start by Murtagh and Thompson they saw off the opening attack and started to play on the front foot. Murtagh’s 21 off just 11 balls came to an end in the 5 over and at that point it seemed to be a question of when and not if the Sharks would bowl the Unicorns out by.
But then came firstly Josh Knappett and then former Somerset all rounder Wes Durston. Neither had been given the opportunity to carry on playing their game at the highest level but today was their moment. Knappett hit 90 off 84 balls but more importantly batted through until the last but one over, providing vital support for Durston who hit 117 off just 68 balls including 5 sixes and 13 fours in one of the best one day inning’s most of the crowd at Arundel had seen. When he fell the Unicorns still needed 80 to win but Knappett and captain Parsons with an unbeaten 41 saw the Unicorns home with just 3 balls to spare.
Was the victory that remarkable? Absolutely. Firstly, this team had been put together without much notice. Secondly, no team batting second in cricket history had ever chased down more than 325 in a 40 over game – in other words they had created their own World Record (where is Norris McQuirter when you need him!) in beating Sussex. And yes finally they had beaten one of the most formidable one day sides in recent years, a team who had won the last two Pro 40 League titles and of course the Twenty 20 cup in 2009. So hardly a push over.
What a day and what a game to choose. Just underlines what is rubbish about English Summer Sunday’s.
Scorecards from the amazing game can be found here.
More photos from the day can be found here.