30 June – 2 July 1902
A world record seventh wicket partnership
Second in the Championship
The 1902 season was one in which the Sussex team was far more balanced than in previous years and despite poor weather dominating the summer, Sussex finished second to Yorkshire in the Championship. The team was less reliant on Fry and Ranji, who both played fewer matches than in previous years, but with Fred Tate having a marvellous summer with his off-spin and Vine, Killick and Relf all batting well, the ‘Annual’ was able to say that ‘No longer are we dependent upon a couple of individuals but the whole team seemed to rise to the occasion, in a body, and the success of Sussex in 1902 was attributed to this cause.’
Some of the most notable games though did involve Ranji, who by his own standards had a poor season. Ranji arrived late for the season and left early, playing his last match for the side in early August. His life was now dominated by matters other than cricket. He had arrived late because he had remained in India to try and sort out his finances. Financial affairs continued to be on his mind throughout the summer and he absented himself from the side in August in order to be in London so that he could entertain Pratap Singh, one of his main financial supporters. When Pratap Singh went back to India, Ranji spent the whole winter in the house of his former guardian, the Reverend Borissow, whose daughter Edith attracted, Ranji. There was even speculation that the couple were engaged that winter.
Ranji’s performances during the summer suggest that his mind was not fully on cricket. He played in only 18 matches but he did reach 1,000 runs for the eighth time. This was due mainly to three superb innings in which he scored 599 runs. On 10 June he scored 135 in a chanceless innings against Surrey. Following a poor performance in the Second Test against the Australians and missing the next County match for business reasons, he turned out at Leyton and hit 230 in five hours against Essex. That was followed by a chanceless 234 not out against Surrey at Hastings.
Newham did not want to play
The Essex match was not just about what Ranji achieved. His performance that day was aided by the 42 year old Billy Newham, who had not wanted to play in the match but was persuaded to do so by Ranji, his captain.
Sussex started the game poorly on the Monday morning and Ranji, who was by then putting himself lower down the batting order, found himself at the crease with Sussex four wickets down for just 82 runs. That was soon six for 92 when Billy Newham joined Ranji. The pair then quickly transformed the game lifting Sussex to 424 for six by the close of play. Newham had reached 146 and Ranji was on 184, having given just two chances – a stumping chance on 23 and one to the wicket-keeper when he was on 176.
A world record
The two continued on the Tuesday morning and by the time the partnership was broken, they had added 344 for the seventh wicket – at the time a world record and today the sixth biggest partnership for the seventh wicket in world first-class cricket, and the second biggest in English cricket. The pair had been together for four hours and twenty minutes and Sussex had reached 520. The Brighton Herald reported on the match saying, ‘Each in their different ways played superb cricket, Ranjitsinhji in that fascinating meteoric style that is particularly his own, exhibiting pretty well every kind of good stroke to perfection, while Mr Newham got his runs in his quieter, but eminently sound and sturdy fashion.’
Essex were 101 for four when rain intervened just before four o’clock on the Wednesday afternoon. On the last day, the Essex amateur Charlie McGahey batted very well and helped Essex reach 266. Fred Tate had taken six wickets at less than two runs an over, to enable Ranji to enforce the follow-on, but Essex were able to bat out the remaining time with solid batting from Fane and Sewell.
Billy Newham, who had played his first game for Sussex in 1881, played for two more years before retiring from playing in 1905. He would continue to serve the club as secretary and then assistant secretary into his eighties. He died in Portslade having served the club for sixty-three years.