A great Sussex servant
Joe Vine was Sussex’s leading professional player during the Golden Era of Raj and Fry. He was in their shadow in the early years of his Sussex career but contributed to some wonderful opening partnerships with C.B. Fry. Once Ranji and Fry had moved on from Sussex, Vine established himself as Sussex’s leading batsman.
Vine was born in Willingdon in 1875 and played his first game for Sussex in 1896, a year after Ranji’s debut for the club. At that time Vine’s main contribution to the side was his outstanding fielding. His opportunities were limited because of the depth of Sussex batting, with not just Ranji and Fry but Brann, Newham and Murdoch. Vine did though score 115 not out against Hampshire at Hove, his maiden century in 1899, and his career rapidly developed from then.
In 1901 Vine opened the batting with Fry beginning a partnership that would last until Fry left for Hampshire in 1909. In that first year of batting with Fry, Vine became the first Sussex player to achieve the ‘double’ when he scored 1,124 runs and took 103 wickets (including taking 15 wickets against Nottinghamshire). He never managed to take 100 wickets in a season again, but his leg breaks remained an important part of the Sussex attack.
Wonderful partnerships with C.B.Fry
Vine’s batting flourished in the role as a defensive player in a wonderful batting line up. He was a major part of the success the club enjoyed in the early years of the new century. With Fry as his opening partner, the pair managed to make century partnerships in 36 innings and double century partnerships on six occasions. Vine had the reputation of being a slow scorer but his role was to be the defensive player in the partnership. It was Fry’s advice that he should score no more than four runs per over, but keep one end going and tire the bowlers out and break their resolve.
It wasn’t just with Fry that Vine enjoyed strong opening partnerships. He contributed to partnerships of 252 and 204 with Robert Relf, a 2nd wicket stand of 249 with Vallence Jupp and a 5th wicket partnership of 207 with Ranji. He also carried his bat through nine innings.
Vine’s abilities gained national recognition in 1911 when he was selected to be a member of the MCC side that toured Australia. He played in two Tests and whilst playing with Frank Wooley, scored 36 in a partnership of 143 for the seventh wicket in the final match.
His highest score in Ranji’s last game
After the First World War, Vine returned to Sussex, and in 1920 playing against Northamptonshire at Hastings, at the age of 45, Joe achieved his highest ever score of 202, his only double century, The score was made in just under five hours, described by Wisden as ‘ playing vigorous cricket all the time’. When Arthur Gilligan, who had just joined Sussex congratulated him, Vine replied ‘I wouldn’t have dared do that when C.B. Fry was playing. I once hit three fours in an over and Mr Fry came up to me and told me plainly that it was my job to stay there and leave that sort of cricket to him.’ It is perhaps ironic that a batsmen who had been in the shadows of Ranji and Fry for so long made this score in Ranji’s last ever match for Sussex. Instead of this match being remembered for Vine’s double century, it was for Ranji’s one run that it is often remembered.