Sussex CC is generally held to have been formed in 1839 when George Langdon, the first secretary, sent out a circular to invite a number of gentlemen to a meeting to adopt a set of rules for the new club. The Brighton Gazette reported on the first meeting of the club at Pegg’s Hotel on 4th April, saying that ‘’We hail with pleasure the formation of a club on so respectable a footing for the promotion of this truly English game.’’
With the arrival of Fry in 1894 and Ranji in 1895, the fortunes of Sussex slowly began to change. The years of their association with the club has been dubbed ‘The Golden Age’, more for the quality of batting than for the results on the field. Ranji’s debut for Sussex in 1895 at Lords versus a MCC team saw him score 77 not out and 150 and at the end of the match which was won by the MCC the crowd gathered in front of the pavilion to congratulate Sussex and their newly found hero. With Ranji joining Fry in the Sussex batting line up, the small Hove ground and the hard pitches made for big scores for the Sussex crowds.
There was no cricket at Hove during WW1, but slowly, once demobilisation began the fortunes of the club improved although with many of their players still in the forces, the improvement was a painfully slow process. In 1919, Yorkshire were beaten at Harrogate, largely through the efforts of the veterans George Cox and Albert Relf. Perhaps the strangest event of the season was the so-called Heygate Affair at Taunton, when with Sussex needing one run to win, Harold Heygate, the last man in but who had not wanted to bat, moved so slowly to the wicket that he was timed out under the two minute rule.
After the Second World War Sussex had to rely on an aging team, and although Sussex beat Worcestershire by nine wickets in the first match at Hove in 1946, this was just one of four wins in a disappointing season when Sussex finished bottom of the Championship. There were some individual good performances with Harry Parks scoring 1,591 runs at an average of 37.8 and Jim Langridge taking 89 wickets but for captain Billy Griffith the season was quite disheartening.
The Sussex side of the 1960s captured the mood of change sweeping the sport by showing the world the thrills and skills of One-Day cricket which would herald a revolution which continues today. Despite the Sussex Handbook of 1966 stating that “the Club will not in any circumstances support the playing of cricket on Sundays” the launch of the John Player League saw just that. Sussex cricket continued to be a mixture of flamboyant players like Dexter, Parks, Greig, Snow thrilling crowds supported by stalwarts of the club like Don Bates, Tony Buss, Les Lenham, Alan Oakman and Ken Suttle, and like all the teams before them were unable to win the County Championship.
When Mushtaq Ahmed arrived at Hove for the beginning of the 2003 season, Sussex was a club that had never won the championship. The club had been second in 1902, 1903, on three occasions in the 1930s, and then again in 1953 – it seemed that Sussex was destined to be the always the bridesmaid and never the bride. Read On