Sussex by the sea

Sussex Sharks 155-7 beat Somerset Sabres 103 all out by 52 runs – County Ground Hove – Tuesday 1st June 2010 – Friend Provident Twenty20 Cup
Arise Sir Twenty20.  However thought of the concept deserves a ruddy medal.  It is not everyone’s cup of tea.  The sight of Bumble last night watching a rather buxom cheerleader jog behind the bowlers arm in tight hotpants and little else will testify to that, but for sheer bloody entertainment you cannot beat it.

Let the Razzmatazz begin

Last night saw the 2010 season kick off, with a repeat of the final from August last year when the Sussex Sharks beat the Somerset Sabres.  Sharks I just get, being close to the sea and all that, but the Sabres?  What has a curved single bladed back sword have to do with the home of Cider and Cheddar cheese I will never know – but then again apart from having the same letter to start their names, Are Durham electric generators (Dynamos),  Yorkshire Carnegie – isn’t that just cheating and selling out as sponsorship and where are the ghosts in Derbyshire?

Anyway, the TBIR team headed down to enjoy some typical Summer evening weather – cold and wet.  Miraculously the game started on time with Sussex being asked to have a slog first.  The teams walked out to a fireworks style opening and indulged in the football tradition of the hand shake line up – how very inclusive. Continue reading

I hate Sunday’s

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!

What more could a man wish for?

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”.

The best ground in the world?

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.

It'll take a world record to beat that!

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.

Worms eye view

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.

I'd love it if they beat us

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.

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Scorecards from the amazing game can be found here.

More photos from the day can be found here.

Twenty20 farce….

I wasn’t there but got angry watching the game from Hove last night.  Sussex beat Kent because Kent were 2 runs short on the Duckworth Lewis method after 11 overs because the light was so bad – in the opinion of the umpires.  The game was an officially classed night game and so according to the rules the Floodlights had to be switched on for the duration of the game.  However, four of the lights had failed earlier in the day yet the game was a) allowed to start, b) not reduced in length.  So after Sussex huffed and puffed to 131-3 Kent had to bat in a situation which should never have been allowed to happen.   Kent kept ahead of the required run rate for the first 10 overs without losing a wicket.  In fact only 3 teams so far this season have gone as far as the 10th over without losing a wicket.  After the 11th over with Kent at 61-0 and 2 runs behind the D/L score the umpires confired and said there would be one more over.  Kent needed to score 5 to win….As Martin-Jenkins was running in to bowl the umpires stopped play and said it was too dark and in the confusion announced Sussex had won….No offering the light or anything.  A complete farce!

Secondly, start of the Twenty20 World Cup and England are playing Holland.  I have no issue with the smaller teams playing but the ECB want £60 a ticket for this one!  £60 for a game which if England bowl first could be over in little more than an hour…..

White shoes, white ball…let’s all have a disco!

There are alot of stereotypes about Essex.  Ford Capri’s, dumb blondes, the birthplace of the Chav, Southend and day tripping Eastenders are all some of the cautionary tale subjects in the past year, but one bright spot in the past year has been form of Essex Eagles.  Last season the team won the Friends Provident Trophy, beating arch rivals Kent, their first trophy in a number of years.  However, the biggest story was in the Twenty20 where the club were almost unbeatable at Chelmsford.  The star in those games was Graham Napier who rose to prominence as an all-rounder par excellence.  Not only did he return figures of 4 for 10 in 4 overs from their Quarter Final versus Northants but more importantly he scored an amazing 152 not out in the game versus Sussex Sharks.  That evening in late June 2008 will be long remembered by all of those few thousand who were in the ground that night.

Napier came to the crease with the score 13-1 in the second over, and proceeded to dominate the strike, breaking records left right and centre.  Not only was his final 152 not out the highest Twenty20 score ever in the UK (only 2nd ever century for Essex in this competition), but the 242-3 was Essex’s highest ever total in the competition (actually 48 more runs than their second biggest score).  Napier and James Foster put on the one and only hundred partnership in Essex’s history (119 as a 3rd wicket partnership) and Napier  scored his final total from just 58 balls and included 10 fours and an amazing 16 sixes (meaning he hit 136 in boundaries from twenty six balls!!!) which equalled the most ever sixes in an innings in a English game…

Essex went on to reach the Finals day for the first time and came up against Kent again although this time the Spitfires came out on top, neutralising the Napier effect by hitting him for 33 off 3 overs and only allowing him to score 3 runs.  Napier’s success had led him to the English World Cup squad, much to the Eagles loss this season although they had recorded wins against the odds versus Kent, Surrey and Sussex prior to this.

Chelmsford is actually easier for me to reach than all other grounds bar the Oval.  It is actually quicker as well – a simple 35 minute drive round the M25 and up the A12.  Whilst the Oval and Lords are nearer, public transport is a hassle and takes the journey times on a bad day to well over an hour.  After parking in one of the side streets I headed into the ground, which was at almost capacity as the first ball was bowled.  The thing that struck me was the mismatch of styles around the ground.  A couple of small double decker stands, a couple of single covered ones (why do you need a cover?  If it rains there wont be any play!), marquee type executive boxes on the pitch side and a strange paddock area in front of the main stand where children played whilst the game went on.  I had my money firmly on a home win, and after seeing some disappointing batting displays I was hoping that the ghost of Napier would rub off on some of his team mates present.

So far this season I had seen eight innings of Twenty20 with an average score of 127.  Overall in the competition this season the average score had been a tad higher at 131 – compare this to the highest average of 2006 when the score was 166!

Essex Eagles 126-7 lost to Sussex Sharks 130-2 by 8 wickets – The County Ground, Chelmsford – Wednesday 3rd June

Lighting the way for the Sharks

Lighting the way for the Sharks

Firstly, please excuse the quality of today’s photos.  I unfortunately left the trusted Fuller camera in the house and so had to fall back on the Blackberry’s camera phone which hasn’t done a bad job actually.

So four Twenty20’s down and an average batting innings of 127 hasn’t really filled me with excitement for the World Twenty20.  Essex Eagles were last year’s big hitters and I expected to see some fireworks in this one, especially as Alaistar Cook started off with a few glorious strikes in the first two overs.  In fact with the score at 30-0 off 3 overs it looked very promising for the Eagles.  But that really was the high point in a disappointing innings as they scored a further 96 runs off 17 overs after Cook departed, bowled by Chad Keegan for 18.  Sussex could certainly be pleased with their contribution both in terms of fielding (restricting the Eagles to just 9 boundaries) and some outstanding bowling by Dwayne Smith whose 3 for 19 was a fabulous return from his four overs.

The ground was pretty full and I had to make do with a “restricted” view from the back of the stands.  What surprised me was the number of groups of blokes standing around the concourse area drinking and having no intention of watching any of the game.  Whilst a few will be on corporate jollies, others will have paid £20+ for the privilage of entry and will have seen nothing of the game.  Yes I appreciate that it wasn’t actually that good a game, but surely they could have at least supported their team?

And support Essex needed.  Hamilton-Brown and Goodwin took to the attack from the first ball, signalling their intent with an attacking opening stand of 74 before Hardinges took two relatively quick wickets.  But with Goodwin scoring the tenth highest Twenty20 score against Essex in 64 not out (including 6 x 4’s and 2 x 6’s) and Yardy anchoring the other end with a steady 19 they easily reached the modest target with ten balls to spare.

The win saw Sussex top the Southern League, albeit having played two more games than anyone else, and Essex slip to second, level on points with Kent with only two guaranteed to go through.  How they wish they had a Napier of June 2008 in their team.  With the floodlights twinkling away in the Essex night sky the crowds headed off to Sam’s, the original home of white shoes and dancing around the handbags to ease away the pain of a home defeat.


About the Ford County Ground
The 6,500 capacity County Ground has been the headquarters of Essex since 1967. The ground is notoriously windy but with great drainage following improvements in 1982. It is a compact ground for a county HQ, but nevertheless much use has been made of the space available. The ground has one double-decker seating area, marquees, executive suites and mostly single-tier seating. Its pavilion, built in the 1970s, has recently been extended and contains all sorts of memorabilia.. It is also one of the only four current grounds with permanent floodlights which were installed in 2002. Graham Gooch has scored most of his 40,000 plus first-class runs here and Essex have had their most successful seasons here, too. Surrey will remember one match for a different reason, though: in 1983, they recorded their lowest innings of 14. The crowd are close to the boundary rope in most places and can make for an intimidating atmosphere akin to Upton Park!  A new development of flats to the south of the ground offer some fantastic (and free) views.

Thanks to for some of the above info

How to get to the Ford County Ground
If you are coming by car then follow the A12 from the M25 junction 28 eastwards for around 9 miles until you get to junction 15 signposted A414 Chelmsford.  Follow this along the dual carriageway then over two roundabouts.  At the third (follow brown signs for cricket) turn left and the ground is a mile down the road on your left.  There is plenty of car parks in the town centre or street parking for night games or Sundays.  The nearest railway station is Chelmsford which is a 10 minute walk away. 

How to get a ticket for the Ford County Ground
As with most cricket, ticket availability depends on the type of game.  For the one day games against the likes of Surrey, Middlesex and Kent then advance booking is recommended as they can sell out.  General ground admission is £20 with an extra £7 for a reserved seat.  For county games the price is £16.  They can be bought online at or by phone on 01245 252420.

Phew, What a Scorcher!

 On the hottest day of the year what better way to spend a family Sunday afternoon than at one of the most picturesque cricket grounds in the world?  There can be no denying the appeal of Canterbury’s St Lawrence Ground on the harshest of English summer days, but when the sun is out, the temperature rises and the beer is flowing it is a wonderful place.  Bribed with a bit of tobogganing in the morning (yep – hottest day of the year and we went down the UK’s longest toboggan run) the Fuller family were excited to continue down the A2 for a spot of Twenty20 action as Kent faced the Sussex Sharks.

We arrived a full hour before the game started, but already the car park was filling up.  The St Lawrence ground is one of the few that allows you to drive you car right up to the boundary, meaning we had a “tailgate” party so the Americans say.  CMF had laid on all the extras – sausage rolls, cherries, salad cream and of course a few beers – perfect for the sunshine.  Soon it was time for Sussex to try and get their Twenty20 campaign back on track after two wins from their four games.  They won the toss and decided to bat first…..

 Kent Spitfires 133-5 beat Sussex Sharks 132-7 by 5 wickets – St Lawrence Ground – Sunday 31st May

I fell out of my chair again

I fell out of my chair again

It is important in Twenty20 to a) start off fast with just two fielders allowed outside the inner circle, and b) not to lose your top order batsmen in the first five or so overs.  Sussex got half of this right – Goodwin monopolised the strike early on and hit over a run a ball in the first few overs, but never received the support his hitting deserved.  Nash, Martin-Jenkins, Ed Smith and Ed Joyce all departed for less than five runs between them, facing just sixteen balls.  44-4 after just eight overs was not a promising start.

The girls had got used to flashing their scorecards in the air whenever the music came on but it was more for the wickets than the boundaries in the first fifteen overs as apart from Goodwin’s quick fire 39, and a dogged 26 from Yardy there was little boundary action (nine in fact in the first fourteen overs).

70 for 6 with just five overs to go brought ex-Kent big hitter Yasir Arafat to the crease and he demonstrated what his ex-employees were missing.  43 runs from a shade over 30 balls was a real Twenty20 innings.  The girls had been waiting patiently for a six all innings, but in their trip to the little girls room which took all of 4 balls they missed two of them from Arafat including one that clear the first two rows of cars in the outfield.  132 for 7 was another low score in the competition and underlines the issues batsmen had had with the early start to the competition this season.  That being said, some fantastic bowling from Mahmood with 3 for 16 from his four overs did help.

So a tad over six an over was required by Kent but they fell into the same trap as the Sharks with three wickets going down very cheaply in the opening few overs.  However if there are two batsmen in England at the moment who are in tip top batting form then it is ex-England wicketkeeper Geraint Jones and Martin Van Jaarsveld.  The South African had already hit four centuries so far this season and looked to another hit innings here with three boundaries in his first four balls.  His 39 from 32 balls was the catalyst for Jones to go onto to hit the first fifty I have seen this season, scoring 56 in less than forty balls including three sixes.  With Jones in his mid-thirties he hit a magnificent strike towards the boundary (as luck would have it the little Fullers had gone on another toilet break) and the Sussex fielding pair of Dwayne Smith and Chris Nash.  Smith palmed the ball up in the air but collided in the process with the on rushing Nash, sending him flying into the advertising hoardings.  It was obvious that Nash was hurt (none of the histrionics from cricketers like footballers) and after fifteen minutes of treatment an ambulance was summoned and Nash was taken away with a suspected broken leg.  Jones fell eventually for 56 with the scores level but three overs to go meant Kent easily coasted home.

It was a great afternoon.  Isabella got to wear all of her make up at various points in the afternoon, Lolly managed to don her best St Tropez scowl and CMF managed to burn her Charlies without actually getting them out.  Great days…