I have an old friend, a barrister, who over the years has been kind to me and offered first rate advice and judgment in property matters in which he specialises. Earlier in the summer I invited him to choose a Sussex CCC match as he is an aficionado of county cricket and the one he selected was yesterday’s encounter between Sussex and Yorkshire. I wanted him to have a special day in my home town. In the space of just under 12 hours I collected him at the station, took him back to my apartment to show him my cricketing memorabilia, watched the morning session at our Players Club, had lunch with vice chairman, a leading historian of Sussex cricket, Jon Firby, met the celebrated 90 year old Hubert Doggart, test cricketer, schoolmaster, sports administrator, was given a conducted tour of the Sussex museum, saw the late afternoon play as Sussex rallied to 175-4, a 30 minute play The Final Match and finished with a splendid dinner at English’s.
Before I go into greater depth, my friend and I observed that, if this was football, our day would be packaged as a platinum day ,”a unique opportunity to have lunch, see the museum, 2 forms of play all for the incredible value of £500 per person”. The fact that nothing was packaged and the planning fairly basic made the day all the more memorable. Over lunch we all expressed our concerns that county cricket would sell its soul to the SKY paymasters with the envisaged T20 window. No doubt some young Turk in SKY and a bean counter in the ECB would say that what does the view of 3000 old farts in the membership of Sussex matter. They should be locked up in the Sussex museum until they understand the connections between cricket and county and cricket and life. This was reflected in the story of Alan Luther recorded there. Aged 33, he fought in August 1914 for the King’s Own Light Yorkshire Infantry. When advancing he was hit by a bomb, blown forward into no man’s land which the Germans then occupied. Dazed, he was saved by a German soldier who looking for identity papers saw his MCC membership card . Unbelievably the German was a keen follower of county cricket and told Luther he was indeed fortunate and “as you are a member of the MCC’ he could return to British line. He died peacefully aged 80.
The play The Final Match was based on the match between Sussex and Yorkshire that took place on September 1st 1939. Poland was invaded that day but because it was Jim Parks senior’s benefit game and a full crowd was expected they played on despite orders to return to Headingley. Hedley Verity took 7-9. All the remaining fixtures were abandoned. Later he was to die from wounds sustained in combat in Sicily in 1943 serving with The Green Howards and the play took place in a military hospital. It was a two-hander, Hedley Verity and a socialist Utopian, in multi media with archive news reel of cricket and World War Two.
The good news that Sussex were conducting a stout rearguard action and the Albion won 1-0 were overshadowed by the tragedy at Shoreham not 3 miles way from where we were. Nonetheless it was a enervating day, possibly the most enjoyable cricketing day of the summer for me. I only hope I can watch county cricket at Hove, Arundel and Horsham – not beer drinking louts at the Brighton and Hove jobs.com at the T20.