Sussex captures the mood of change
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. Ted Dexter, captain in the early 60s was an inspirational captain who introduced slip field practice for every morning. In 1966 the Nawab of Pataudi became the third Indian prince to be appointed captain of Sussex before being asked to lead India in their 1967 tour of India.
From 4th to bottom
With Dexter, Parks and Snow often away on international duty Sussex did poorly in the Championship after the heights of finishing 4th in 1960 and 1961 to finish rock bottom in 1968. At the end of the 1960s, under the leadership of Mike Griffith, and with the support of Tony Greig, Mike Buss and Peter Graves, Championship results improved.
Cricket was to change completely
The nature of world cricket changed completely in the 1970s, and the genesis of change was a meeting that took place in the captain’s room at the County Ground, Hove, between Australian magnate Kerry Packer and Sussex captain Tony Greig. The meeting led to the breakaway World Series Cricket, and led to the resignation of Tony Greig from Sussex, half way through the season. The development of World Series Cricket reflected the changes that were happening in cricket. One-Day cricket was increasing in popularity. The Gillette Cup and the John Player League led to the introduction of a new 55 over tournament, the Benson & Hedges Cup in 1972. The decade though was dominated by the success of Sussex in the One Day Gillette Cup. Dexter’s side won the inaugural cup in 1963 and then again in 1964. The club got to the final again in 1968 but lost to Warwickshire in the final yet finished last in the new John Player’s County League 40 over competition.
The Australians beaten at Hove
Highlights from the early 70s included the two run win against Kent at Eastbourne in 1971, the Gillette run of 1973 when Sussex beat Kent, then defeated Middlesex in the semi-final at Lord’s by just five runs, only to lose the final against Gloucestershire by 40 runs. In 1972 Sussex beat the Australians for the first time since 1888 and then a few year later, in 1975, met the Australians again, this time drawing the match. The highlights of the match were the batting exploits of three players: Greig made magnificent 129 off 163 balls, Austin Parsons in his only century for Sussex, smashed 141 whilst for Australia Rick McCosker scored a century in each innings.
These were just highlights in a period that was barren for Sussex as far as the Championship was concerned. Sussex finished in the bottom three, three times, and usually in mid-table in the Sunday ‘slog’. In 1975 Sussex had a terrible time losing 12 matches out of 13 including eight successive defeats. Snow and Greig were a class apart from the rest of the team but were often away playing for England.
How did they not win?
The 1980s began with Arnold Long retiring in 1980 after being captain for three seasons and was replaced by John Barclay who remained as captain until 1986. Barclay’s team was one of the best seen at Hove for many years. There were quality batsmen in Paul Parker and Gehan Mendis, ably supported by Parker and Alan Wells and a battery of fast bowlers including Garth Le Roux, Geoff Arnold and Tony Pigott. Added to these players was world class all-rounder, Imran Khan. The only weakness was the lack of a quality spinner. How this team failed to win the Championship was quite remarkable. In 1981 Sussex missed out by just two points to Nottinghamshire.
One Day cricket was quite different
One-day cricket was quite different. In 1982 Sussex ran away with the John Player League winning 14 matches and losing just one, and in 1985 Sussex finished as runners-up. In 1986 the Club cruised through the semi-final of the National Westminster Bank Trophy against Worcestershire and in the Lord’s final Sussex were at their best and far too good for the one-day specialists Lancashire – winning by seven wickets. Dermot Reeve was Man of the Match taking the key wicket of Clive Lloyd and finishing with four for 20 from his 12 overs. As the 1980s drew to a close the Club celebrated its 150th anniversary (in 1989).
Taken from ‘A Pictorial History of Sussex County Cricket Club’