The building of a new side
There was no cricket at Hove during WW1, but slowly, once de-mobilisation 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 1920, Yorkshire, the current champions 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, R.B. 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.
With the stalwarts Joe Vine and George Cox providing the backbone of the side, Sussex finished a very creditable 6th in 1920, the year of Ranji’s last game for the club. Seeing the old portly man score just 39 in his four innings was not the last memory that most Sussex supporters wanted of the legendary batsman but under the captaincy of A. Gilligan, a new side began to be built around Gilligan and Maurice Tate.
Maurice Tate – a Sussex great
Maurice Tate was a Sussex ‘great’. He played for the club for 25 years between 1912 and 1937, scoring 17,086 runs at an average of 24 and took 2,211 wickets. His best season was 1924 when he took 150 wickets and scored 1,144 runs with a top score of 164. Fred Tate and his captain, A Gilligan, were responsible for bowling out South Africa at Edgbaston for just 30 (11 were extras) in 45 minutes. Tate took 4 for 12 whilst Gilligan took 6 for 7. With the ball being made by the Wisden company, Sussex dominated South Africa that day. South Africa eventually lost the match by an innings, with Tate getting four wickets and Gilligan five wickets in the second innings.
By 1928 Sussex had developed a far more dependable batting line up and in that year finished a very creditable 7th with Ted Bowley playing some outstanding cricket both with the bat and the ball. That season seven players got to 1,000 runs. On their day Sussex could beat anyone and they were real contenders for the championship, but they still lacked consistency for there were still too many losses. In 1929, Gilligan’s last as captain, Sussex finished fifth. He would be remembered in particular for the huge improvement in fielding he had brought to the side. By now the side included the likes of Jim Parks, KS Duleepsinhji, Jim Langridge and Harry Parks.
There were a number of defeats in 1929, mostly at the beginning of the season, but in August, Surrey, Kent, Glamorgan, Yorkshire and Gloucestershire were all beaten and in the game against Gloucestershire, victory was achieved by just one run in the season’s most exciting match.
The early 1930s saw the Hove crowds enjoy a feast of batting from Duleep, Ranji’s nephew. He took over the captaincy in 1931 and although Sussex started poorly, being as low as 13th in the middle of the season, an all-round performance in the side’s form and some inspirational batting from Duleep, who hit 12 centuries, lifted Sussex to fourth place. Duleep scored 1,859 runs with Bowley, Harry Parks and Cook all surpassing 1,000 runs. James Langridge achieved the double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets and Tate headed the bowling with 111 wickets. With Cornford playing his first season for Sussex and performing well behind the stumps, 1931 was a very satisfactory year.
The nearly team
The brilliance of Duleep’s batting and the leadership he gave almost led to Sussex winning the championship in the early 1930s but although they were runners up in 1932, 1933 and 1934 they couldn’t quite achieve the ultimate goal that had eluded the club for almost a hundred years. had Sussex beaten Yorkshire at Hove in 1932 they might have won the championship but with Duleep ill and half of the team playing with minor injuries, the odds were perhaps against them and they were well beaten. The last match of 1932 was a thriller with three needed for victory with one wicket left, when stumps were drawn.
In 1933 Sussex had their best tally of victories so far, 18. Yorkshire were beaten twice and in the match against Middlesex at Hove, Bowley and John Langridge had a partnership of 490 in 350 minutes in a single day.
Sussex seemed to be odds on favourites to win the championship in 1934 but fell away badly at the end of the season although only two games were lost. Again illness, injury and loss of form robbed the team of crucial players at critical times.
Jim Parks, senior
In 1937 Jim Parks scored 3,003 runs and took 101 wickets – making him the best all-rounder in the country. Over the season Parks scored 11 centuries for Sussex – the highest being 168 against Hampshire at Portsmouth. Both Parks brothers exceeded 1,000 and five other Sussex batsmen scored over 1,000 including the Langridge brothers who set a record of scoring 2,000 runs each. There were 32 century partnerships and nearly 17,000 runs scored by the team, but Sussex could finish no higher than fifth.
1938 was Hugh Bartlett’s year, with the highpoints being his 175 not out against the Australians and 175 not out for the Gentlemen against the Players. The century against the Australians, scored in just 57 minutes, has been hailed as one of the best batting Sussex performances of all time.
The last match of the decade was at Hove against Yorkshire. It was Jim Park’s benefit match but unfortunately war had already begun and took attention away from what was a very fine match. Hedley Verity achieved his last outstanding performance of his career in what was his last match. He took 7 for 9 with Sussex being bowled out for 33. Sussex saw George Cox hit a brilliant 198, including 28 boundaries, whilst Len Hutton and Norman Yardley also hit centuries for Yorkshire.