Sussex Martlets v Old Hurstjohians CC
at Arundel Castle on 4 September 2020
Old Hurstjohians CC play at Arundel Castle in centenary of their Cricket Week
Back in February, representative members of The Sussex Martlets joined with the Old Hurstjohians CC in the Long Room at Lord’s to celebrate the centenary of the OJs cricket week. The Martlets received a number of honourable mentions throughout the evening as the cricketing opposition who have played the most often against the OJs in their cricket week. The most convivial of settings could hardly have foreshadowed the abandonment of the OJs centenary celebrations of this wonderful achievement.
Against this background, when the restrictions on organised sport were lifted in mid-July, representations were made to the availability of additional fixtures at Arundel Castle, it emerged that Friday 4 September was available. The date secured at the Castle, enquiries were made to see if the OJs would accept an invitation to play away from Hurstpierpoint College. The match was quickly arranged, with the Martlets led by Stuart Ritchie, in his final year as chairman of the Club, and the OJs by Mark Semmence, a great cricketer in his time at the college and now Headmaster at Repton College.
Before the start of play, Martlets President Brian O’Gorman spoke elegantly of Keith Jenkin and Derek Semmence who had both passed away earlier in the year. Keith and Derek each had a long association with Hurstpierpoint College, Keith as a pupil and Derek as master of cricket, and both were Vice Presidents of The Sussex Martlets. Brian remembered touring with Keith on the Martlet’s tour to South Africa in the early 1970s, batting with him at Newlands. He remembered playing with Derek in Sussex and his many wide ranging conversations. Martlets guest for the day was Christine Semmence, Derek’s widow, accompanied by many of her family.
The toss was won by the OJs and they elected to bowl. The Martlets openers were Rob Carver and George Briance. The OJs opening bowlers were James Brehaut and Joe White. It proved an unequal task for the Martlets who fell to 18 for 4 after 9 overs in just over 30 minutes play. The situation had hardly improved by lunch with the Martlets on 76 for 8, albeit with an effective rear guard action from Paddy Jackson and Johnny Wills.
Lunch was taken in the marque on the outfield, where an unexpected and exceptionally generous offer was made to the Martlets, namely the match would become a two innings game, and the OJs would forfeit their first innings. The Martlets accepted wanting to get a day’s cricket and reciprocated by declaring their first innings. Opening the Martlets second innings were Paddy Jackson and Johnny Wills facing James Brehaut and Joe White again opening for the OJs. In fairness, the OJs opening bowlers were just a bit too good for our openers, but this time did not get a wicket for 10 overs. Marginally better batting followed from Sam Carter, Rob Carver, Robin Frean and Andy Greg. However, Briance went for a pair before 3pm and Ritchie hardly faired better in his second innings caught and bowled by Omkar Knot, who finished with 4 for 43.
There is an art to the declaration and normally it is thought to be a combination of runs and wickets, but there is a third factor, namely time. The OJs bowling had been relentless taking wickets at regular intervals and hampering the Martlets attempt to accumulate runs. Recollecting the Martlets victory against the OJs in 2011 (which Ritchie had match managed – the declaration then did not come until 4pm whereafter the OJs were bowled out) the Martlets batted until the combined score from their two innings was 176 runs declared at 3.50pm. Tea was waived and the OJs had two hours and some 38 overs to get the runs at just over 4.5 per over. Scorer John Betts, the umpire back in 2011, said of this game it was the perfect declaration.
The Martlets opened with pace from Andy Greg and Mike Smith. After six overs and a wicket, spin was introduced with George Briance and Johnny Wills. Wills lasted two overs until his shoulder gave way and was succeeded by Robin Frean. Freano kept the Park end secure conceding 58 runs for one wicket. From the Castle end, Briance took 4 wickets for an economic 32 runs. Importantly the Martlets took wickets periodically, Mike Smith’s run out of James Brehaut was exceptional, building pressure and with the run rate increasing, time was approaching. Mike Smith returned from the Castle end, this time bowling spin, to take the final two wickets just before the clock turned 6pm for the Martlets to win by 28 runs.
It was a remarkable day of cricket, the most unexpected result, a continuation of the long tradition of cricket between the OJs and the Martlets, and most importantly the Martlets gave the OJs the chance to play cricket in the centenary of their cricket week. The OJs remain dominant in this fixture, having won 31 matches against the Martlets 23, in the 88 times this fixture has been played.
Reflecting on the day, Ritchie thought back to his introduction to Martlets cricket. Very early on, it was his privilege to play with Derek Semmence, and to succeed him as match manager of the OJ’s fixture. He particularly remembered playing under Derek at Eastbourne College where after succumbing early to their 1st XI, Derek went round the changing room giving words of individual encouragement as to how his players might bat longer next time. With pure speculation, Ritchie did wonder if Derek had been playing today, after the close of play he might have said to his players, take your time.
The day ended convivially first on the lawn by the steps to the ground and then at the Black Rabbit looking back over the river to the Castle. Grateful thanks are expressed to all those who took part.
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