Sussex v Hampshire

Saturday 12th June 2021 – The T20 Vitality Blast – County Ground, Hove

Can you remember what you were doing when you were 16 years old? Having just finished my O-Levels, I’d just discovered pubs, girls and riding my brother’s motorbike across the fields near my house. I’m sure most of us have similar stories of experiencing first things in the world as we moved towards adulthood.

Archie Lenham, born in July 2003, made his debut for Sussex in the win on Thursday at Bristol, and retained his place in the side to face Hampshire Hawks at Hove, not only being the youngest ever Sussex player in the T20 competition, but the second youngest in the history of the competition. Whilst the Sussex batsmen will claim the plaudits in the nine-wicket victory, Lenham’s 3 wickets in 3 overs for just thirteen runs grabbed the headlines.

The County Ground at Hove is hidden behind smart houses and flats with balconies the walk towards the ground saw families heading the other way, back from the beach after a day out in the sunshine. A perfect evening for cricket, with the Sharks looking on making it two wins out of two with the visit of the Hawks.

I’d done my research before buying tickets, working out where the sunshine would be, as well as somewhere with a roof in case it rained. The Upper Pavilion was the area of choice, although the fact we couldn’t see one whole boundary side was a bit of a pain. However, we did have access to the Long Room Bar below which gives you a window, quite literally, to the bygone years of cricket in all its formality. Quite what the Sussex members who sit in this area think of the flame cannons that shot fire 15 feet into the air right in front of their faces..I wonder how many times the phrase “It’s just not cricket” has been uttered.

The Hawks won the toss and elected to bat, although they lost Darcy Short in the third over with just three runs on the board. The decision by Sussex to open with pace at both ends in the first few overs set the tone, with Hampshire struggling to find the gaps in the field in the first six power play overs. They had just reached the half-century in the eighth over when Vince fell. Four balls later and a swept shot from Weatherley fell straight to Lenham but under no pressure he dropped the catch.

That could have really impacted the 16 year old. Instead, he was thrown the ball for his spell and his first ball resulted in Alsop smashing it to the boundary where Thomason held onto the ball, to give him his first wicket at Hove. He followed that up with two more wickets as Hampshire’s batsmen struggled to make any impact on the score. In fact, had it not been for a late flurry by Jamie Fuller and Chris Wood, they may not have made 140.

The key for Hampshire was to restrict the Sussex openers in the powerplay and grab regular wickets. Neither of those things happened. When Head became the first, and subsequently only, Sharks wicket to fall, they had already raced to 37 off four overs. Phil Salt picked up to where he had left off in Bristol, easing to another fifty off 30-odd balls, whilst Ravi Bopara at the other end was showing all of his experience in taking ones and twos, keeping the score ticking along.

There was a group of West Ham/Lazio fans (the clue was in the flag they hung up at the back of the pavilion) who as the game wore on, became more musical. They livened up a relatively quiet crowd, although their range of songs was limited to just three – one for Bopara (‘Oh Ravi Bopara..” to the tune of Seven Nation Army) and one for Phil Salt (“Oh, Philly, Philly, Philly, Philly, Philly Salt”). There was a random one about Ollie Robinson, to the tune of Mrs Robinson but that drew some loud tuts from a couple of the members nearby, so they dropped that. Quite what they would have sung had Wiese had come into bat I don’t know, although I would imagine they had a few lined up for Will Beer.

I had a bet running on the number of sixes in the game, going with 10.5 or less. The bet hung on one shot by Bopara which was signalled as a six, then on review was downgraded to a four on review – that meant the final total was 10 and I was quids in. A thank you to whoever in the Sky Sports production team saw that.

Sussex made light work of reaching the total, with nearly four overs to spare. Salt remained unbeaten still, this time on 72, carrying his bat for the second game in a row, whilst Bopara reached his fifty and remained not out.

Hove is a decent venue – a mix of the character-filled old stands, with some temporary seating at one end to boost the attendances for the T20 games, whilst the flats and apartments on three sides gives it an intimate feel of being enclosed.

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