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A pleasant day at Hove County Ground

The sun shone for most of the first day which ended with Sussex in pole position over Middlesex on 354-6.

It might have been more but doughty Ali Orr, who looks more of a Ken Barrington than a David Gower, was tragically out for 99 in the last ball before tea.

Chet Pujara, who had banked 531 runs already, started his innings with consecutive fours but was out for 16.

Although skipper Tom Haines – who like Ted Dexter, for whom there was a superb tribute in the Sussex Yearbook by Paul Weaver, was appointed captain aged just 24 – elected to bat after winning the toss and this was probably the right decision.

Middlesex’s Shaheen Afreidi bowling down the slope from the Cromwell Road end was particularly hostile in the morning session when the moisture of the sea air and cloud cover are beneficial for pacy seam.

Orr and Tom Alsop put on a stand of 204 after Haines’s dismissal but only the latter achieved his century.

It was surprising that Orr looked to be in the nervous nineties as before then he displayed a calm temperament.

Cricket at Hove is always a sociable event.

Although I brought a book and a case with things to do I was soon joined at my table of the Players Club by company.

This sociability is both a blessing but also a a reason why Sussex – up till 20 years ago – had scant success: our supporters prefer a pleasant day by the sea to silverware.

In the evening there was a lecture on the match day in 1925 when A.C. Maclaren put together a team which played and beat the seemingly invincible Australian side of Don Bradman at the Saffrons Ground Eastbourne.

One person at our table was the Chief Executive of Arundel Castle Ground and there was regret – not least from your own correspondent – that Sussex are not playing there this year, nor indeed at the Saffrons or Horsham.

It is a county club – not a Brighton and Hove one – and we enjoy our visits to the outer grounds, especially the Arundel Festival in June.

Now that the Oxford v Cambridge match has been removed from the Lords calendar it will be played at Arundel

Another member at our table worked up a head of steam that the ground is now out of bounds for the crowd to enter.  Seeing kiddies playing soft ball cricket on the hallowed ground where Ted Dexter and other legends of Sussex played their strokes is a feature of the day.

It’s apparently a consequence of ‘health and safety’.

The member said there is a risk in everything to which I could only agree as, in crossing Eaton Road to enter the ground, I was very nearly mown down by a speeding motorist.

Aside from this incident I returned home enervated by a most enjoyable but not untypical day.

The Harvey’s beer began to flow, of which one member approved as ale can apparently go stale in the keg.

Another joked that it might have been Jofra Archer behind the wheel mowing me down, but the Sussex chairman pointed out that he lives near the ground and his preferred transport to the ground is a scooter.

The pavements are uneven because the Green council will not use pesticide to remove the tree roots bubbling up under them – so the speedster will have to exercise caution as he does not want a fall with his delicate elbow.

He was training at the ground yesterday and the hope is he will resume white ball cricket over the next months.

George Garton (suffering from Long Covid) and Ollie Robinson are in the team and hopefully will ‘do an Afreidi’ over the next few days.

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About Ivan Conway

Ivan Conway will be reporting on Sussex sport. He is a member of the 1901 club at Brighton HAFC, Sussex County Cricket Club and an enthusiastic horse race goer. After selling his freight forwarding and conference business he settled in Hove. His other interests are bird watching, brass rubbing and bridge. More Posts