The end of season dinner took place two days after we were relegated. Any thoughts that it might turn into a wake were dispelled as it was a celebration of the careers of Matt Prior and Mike Yardy who both retired last season.
Although the party line was the table does not lie, various excuses were made for the Sussex demise. The main one was the injury crisis that deprived us of 4 seam bowlers (Anyon, Hatchett, Mills, Shahdad). That is however only half the answer. In the second innings against Yorkshire last Thursday when we were chasing a total of 301, the top 5 in the batting order could only muster 55 runs. Time and time again Luke Wright and latterly Mike Yardy and Ben Brown had to fight rearguard actions as the top 4 failed to put anything meaningful on the board.
Given that Matt Prior was centrally contracted we supporters and he himself embraced his Sussex career without difficulty. Both he and Mike Yardy were one club men: “Yards”, as he is known, is our last connection with the Championship season of 2003 and one of few English cricketers to win a one day trophy when England won the 20/20 World Cup. Their loyalty is one of the reasons why I prefer cricket to football where the one club man is such a rarity and as Alan Tanner wrote a club captain urges a youngster to make a lucrative move.
Alcohol and bonhomie flowed in equal measure. Tony Cottey, a proud Welshman, urged the room not to disclose the result of England v Wales. However in that great gossipy clearing house, the Gents, my neighbour revealed the result. In fact he got it wrong but the damage was done. I decided to leave at 11 not being much of a boozer and seeing where the night was going and watched the recorded game at home. This is is not a bad way of watching rugby as the fast forward on the handset accelerated me away from the injury breaks and the prevarication when the TMO was consulted. I’m no rugby aficionado but the action was plodding and the attritional match determined by metronomic penalty kicking. A curate ‘s egg of a sporting day saw Brighton concede a goal in the 93rd minute for a draw but we are still atop the Championship.