Tuesday, 25 July 2017

County Ground, Hove

23rd July 2017

Sussex Sharks v Kent Spitfires
(T20 Blast)

Bleakly staring out over the County Ground this afternoon, as the precipitation panelled down, I reflected upon just how many of my cricket watching ventures south of the border had been blighted by the rain.  Matches at Durham, Lords, Edgbaston, Derby and Worcestershire had all, if memory served, been either interrupted, delayed or curtailed by inclement weather.  Add to that list the hour-and-a-half I had stood in a downpour at The Grange in Edinburgh recently, and I could not help but wonder if I had been particularly unfortunate.  Or if my experience was simply typical of the lot of your average cricket fan.

The weather again (ahem) rained my parade on this trip, initially sending me scurrying to the south coast, after it became clear my original destination (Sophia Gardens) was going to be extremely well-watered today.

In the event Kent, in this T20 Blast match, played out their allotted 20 overs in persistent, but only lightly spitting rain, the business only getting serious during the final over.  This fact perhaps contributing to the visitors' Jimmy NEESHAM effortlessly flicking both the closing two balls for identical-looking sixes; Kent bowler David WIESE perhaps in too much of a hurry to get out of the wet.  Those twelve runs, which took NEEDHAM's personal total to 36, and his side's to 176, would prove to be crucial.

The players went off around 16:50 and it would be two hours before we saw them again, as the weather did its best to end proceedings there and then.  But the rain gradually eased off, allowing the busy-bee ground staff to work their magic.  Perfect, I thought, we will get this match finished after all.  Only to learn, the “rest” of the contest would consist of just 8 overs, the home side having been set an amended target of 88 to win.

Why?  Well, the rather vague reason of “competition rules” was spouted by our announcer, but the question remained in my head: Why?

The heavy rain had plainly stopped for the evening – indeed there were by now large blue patches of sky showing.  We were playing with a white ball and, rather more importantly, the ground enjoyed floodlights - which had been switched on for some time.  So why were we being denied out full quota of entertainment – particularly as we had, or at least I had, shelled out the not inconsiderable sum of £28 for our pleasure?  I could think of no reason why the full 20 overs could not be, at the very least, attempted.

But then there is no much about this oddly compelling sport I do not (yet) understand.

County Ground Clock Tower and scoreboard.

County Ground, Hove

Sam Northeast chats to (I think) Sam Billings

Tymal Mills (Sussex)

Billings about to bash a six.

Anyway – clearly feeling the tally was well within their reach, the home batsmen swiftly set about Kent opening bowler Matt COLES; Chris NASH hitting him for a four and then a six off the opening two balls.  Luke WRIGHT subsequently scored a six off the last ball of the beleaguered chap's over, giving Sussex a flying start of 19 from the first over.  The fourth over (bowled by Mitchell CLAYDON) was almost as productive with the result Sussex, on 42/2 at the halfway point, looked well on course to do the business.  But a significantly more disciplined 5th over by COLES yielded just 7 runs, and it became apparent this contest was likely to go down to the final few balls.

As indeed it did.  With Sussex requiring two runs off the last ball, NASH bashed it as far as he could towards the boundary, but his partner Laurie EVANS just could not scamper fast enough to beat Alex BLAKE's remarkable long-range throw and was run out - leading to a thrilling, and yet vaguely unsatisfying, tied match.

One point each was the outcome – exactly the same, I noted, as would have happened, if Sussex had never batted at all.

The scoreboard after the opening two balls of Sussex' innings.

Calum Haggett (Kent)

Chris Nash hitting one of the six sixes he scored.

Chris Nash (Sussex)

Mitchell Claydon (Kent)

County Ground, Hove

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