Ladies and Gentlemen, I bring you the match report from Tuesday 11th July, where the Sussex Martlets played host to the Australian Touring side, The Victor Trumper XI, down at Saffrons, in rather typical, grim English conditions.
Given this match was away from the castle, a new fixture and only a limited overs game, I told the boys not to worry with the usual smart attire. However, after arriving, I swiftly noticed I was incredibly under dressed compared to our oppo, who were in all matching chinos, shirts, ties and blazers. Good first impressions from me. Secondly, before I’d even said hello to anyone, our own Martlets umpire asked me where the hell I’d been and why were there no Martlets here for the 1pm start?! Following some swift checking of my emails and the martlets website, I decided I was in fact 15 minutes early for my meet time. Success. With the oppo believing it was a 1pm start, and me believing it was a 1.30pm start, naturally we compromised for 1.30pm start. Outstanding communication from us.
With the weather around later in the day, only half the team being present at the time of the toss and not actually being able to look at the strip with the covers still on, I decided we’d have a hit first. Great first win of the day. With my opening batsman Luke Forster’s driving style (making him and Ben Whelpton late) a mirror image of his strike rate, he was shoved down the order to 6, meaning Iain Allan was given the nod to open up with Laurie Cadle and provide some fire works at the top of the order alongside his steady-eddy partner. Iain then left his first 3 balls. Fuming. Iain was also wearing a pair of the oppo’s white trousers. This is a key piece of info that we’ll come back to later.
The innings took a very different pace compared to the last match I managed against Hurst College. A low and slow deck, with a bit of turn for the spinners, it was a pitch where the slower you bowled the harder it was to score. Alongside a damp and long-ish outfield, there was very little value for money with your shots as a batsman. The story of the day was a lot of blokes getting in and getting out, annoyingly. Laurie, striking at an impressive 37.04, fell first. This bought Noah Langham to the crease, who displayed great maturity in how he went about his business, with some glorious shots off the change bowlers and was unlucky to not have a few more boundaries to his name, with many a ball stopping just short of the rope (get in the gym chief). Iain and Noah fell for 33 and 36 respectively. Iain displaying some of his glorious natural game eventually with some big blows over the top. Worthing Overseas, Dean Solway, then came to the crease, who looked to carry on from his last wandering knock, against the Martlets, at hove last Sunday. Looking majestic for a run a ball 35 (sounds familiar already), before falling as well. Dean was also recognised by the oppo umpire, who grew up playing with Dean’s dad in Canberra. Ooooooh friends.
Batting at 5 (I’m aware my order of events is off here, apologies) was Hugh (Might have a surname? Could be wrong) who, since Isaac Heater informed me at 1am on the day of the game he couldn’t play, because he was in France, was filling in for us and in fact a member of the oppo’s touring party. When I arrived, stating I needed a player to Garth, their skipper, he quickly pointed at Hugh. Expecting great things and eager to get one over on his own team, he also got in and got out for a run a ball 17. Sick. At the crease now was Luke, who was admiring how shiny his new bat was, and Boots (Obaida Qazi). This partnership did not last long. Luke, before going out to bat, stated that ‘this game needs a cameo from me’. Luke scored 3 off 15. Stumped on the second attempt by their stand-in keeper. Yes, Luke was that far down. Just to put all your minds at rest, Luke’s bat is still very shiny as it wasn’t really used.
Anyway, this bought myself to the crease. Mildly fuming that, despite hiding myself at 8 due to my well documented injuries and hoping I wouldn’t be needed to bat, my ‘batsman’ before me decided I should in fact have a hit. Thanks. Grimacing with pain, I set to work like a true skipper, trying to drag us up to a respectable score with Boots at the other end doing Boots things. After smashing a few around and carving there opening quick (mild exaggeration on the ‘quick’ part) over extra cover for 6, out the gate and onto the main road, I decided I’d play around a straight one for 30 odd (shock) not wanting to show up the chaps before me. Good skippering that. Boots carried on at the other end with the tail and we managed to go at 10’s for the last 5 to get to 207/8. Not quite the 250 mark I had in mind, but I’ll take it given where we were at. As we were settling in for tea, Noah’s dad, John, reminded Luke that his best shot was the 3 bye’s he ran. Tough, tough spray from the crowd. With pizza, spring rolls and sausage sarnies devoured, we headed out to defend our score and make it 2-2 in the ashes.
Opening up with the new ball for me was Alex Foulds, an honour to play our first match together, and Heathfield veteran Daniel James. With the cloud cover overhead, I was praying for some early poles from our seamers knowing how criminally light on bowling options I was. Alex, hooping it miles, was rather unlucky, with some ugly shots that ran away to the boundary mixed with some glorious shot that cleared the boundary, denting his figures slightly. Iain, fielding at gully, was a busy boy diving to all sorts. With the opening bat being the one who donated his spare whites to Iain’s legs, he was getting rather annoyed at how muddy they were becoming. Bizarre. More on this again later.
At the other end, DJ had lost his voice. For a man feeling so under the weather, he bowled beautifully, cleaning up both their number 1 and number 3 in the space of a couple of overs. Setting a field for the bloke who was whispering to me from the end of his run up, whilst I was at first slip, was rather comical. A new form of sign language was developed to allow us to communicate with one another, rather swiftly. This was then equally as swiftly put to bed when 3rd slip was confused with 3rd man. Whoops.
DJ’s second pole bought their number 4 to the crease, who was fresh off a 90-odd run knock the day before. The fact he was batting in a wide brim aside, how he got off the mark by dispatching Alex back over his head for 6, indicated we were very much about to get a lesson in ‘how to be an alpha’. With both openers deserving a blow, I chucked the ball to my favourite bowler as a Martlets captain, Ben Whelpton, and Iain Allen, who despite nursing some ‘injuries’ fancied trying to be an alpha himself and having a go at their number 4. With the score going steadily, after Iain had the other opener caught at mid-off by Noah, I was running out of ideas. 2 overs to go before drinks, with the score at 100-3, I fancied an experiment.
Chucking the ball to Boots for an on over was possibly the worst thing I could have done. The over went for 22.
At the other end, bowling the 20th over, was Hugh, who I was hoping would have some inside knowledge on the two men at the crease. Hugh’s first ball was a leggy that nearly bounced for a second time as it got to the crease. You can imagine my embarrassment, giving the ball to the enemy who looks like he’s trying to throw the game. Anyway, after drinks, with the Aussie’s only needing 70 odd for the win with 7 wickets in hand from 20 overs, jokes were being made of how quickly we can get this over and done with.
Dean then bowled some outstanding L and L after drinks, with Hugh still going at the other end, getting some good turn out the deck and picked up the scalp of the number 5. What happened next was utterly bizarre. Ben Whelpton was reintroduced to the attack. Ben just decided to become Nathan Lyon and reduced The Victor Trumper XI from 162-4 to 193-8, clean bowling all of his victims. Despite this collapse from the oppo, I was still not hopeful of a victory, with the number 4 still there on 90 not out and seeing it like a melon. Ben (God I love this man), bowled a slightly quicker one and he chopped on for 94. I was gutted for the man, batted incredibly well in tricky conditions and to fall so close to a hundred for the second day in a row is heartbreaking. Anyway, feelings aside, with the oppo 9 down, for the first time in the game I sensed we were in danger of winning a game of cricket we had no right to win. Amongst all this, Alex took a call from his mother at backward point on his apple watch. Enough said.
It all came down to the last over. 4 to win for them, 1 wicket to win for us. You could hear a pin drop it was that quiet. Alex then decided to shove one down the leg side with the scores level and Laurie standing up. So we lost. Boo. Joking aside, it was a brilliant days cricket, played in incredible spirit, with some brilliantly relevant Ashes banter being thrown around. Special mention to MoM Ben, who was awarded a Victor Trumper book for his performance with the ball. Ben has played 2 games for me this year and picked up 10 wickets. Why Moeen Ali is being picked ahead of him I don’t know. Also, Widebrim (number 4), apologies I don’t know your name, but an incredible innings of some unbelievable hard hitting. Thank you also to Hugh for stepping up and filling in for us, it was a pleasure to have you.
We would be delighted to welcome The Victor Trumper XI back to Sussex in 2027, who have some very talented young cricketers on their hands. Baggies have been exchanged and mine is on its way back to a collection in Australia, which features over 20 baggy greens. An honour to have contributed to such an incredible collection. Photos and speeches finished, beers flowed and the boys headed home with some great connections made. Iain then told me he in fact did have his whites all along and they were just in his bag. Dense.
Love, George x
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