Sussex v Kent 3, 4, 5 and 6 September 1991
The result hung in the balance until the last over
This day would live long in the memory
Anyone present at Hove on 6 September 1991, would have had a day’s cricket that would have lived long in the memory. Sussex were playing Kent and it was the fourth day of a match that went to the final over. Sussex began the last day needing to get to 437 runs to achieve an unlikely win. No-one could have predicted what would happen – unless they had been at Hastings seven years earlier when Sussex had also played Kent.
Mark Benson, the Kent captain, won the toss and decided to bat first. Kent reached 381 with Neil Taylor scoring a fine 111 and contributing strongly to a partnership of 138 with Matthew Fleming who made 69. Sussex went in to bat late on the first day, and with the two Wells brothers both making solid seventies on the second day, Sussex reached 353. Kent’s second innings was dominated by the magnificent stroke play of Neil Taylor who made 203 not out. With Taylor dominating the bowling and scoring freely, Mark Benson was able to declare before the close of play on the third day, with Sussex needing 437 runs to win. This total had been achieved only five times before in a Championship match so he must have been confident of a Kent victory.
437 set to win
Sussex captain Paul Parker decided to open the innings with Jamie Hall and they put on 146 for the first wicket, giving Sussex an excellent start. Optimism about what Sussex might achieve was quickly dampened as Peter Moores was lbw to Merrick without scoring. With Alan Wells holding the middle order together, Sussex reached 254 for three and 371 for four. Wells’ powerful hundred included 20 fours and a six and was his seventh three-figure of the season. It seemed as if Sussex were in sight of a remarkable win, but the West Indian fast bowler, Tony Merrick, bowling well on a good batting wicket, took three wickets in ten balls, including both Wells brothers, as Sussex were reduced to 434 for nine. Sussex, who had scored more than 400 runs in their fourth innings for the first time since 1939, went in to the last over bowled by Min Patel with the scores level.
The last over
Tony Pigott was at the crease with Ian Salisbury, at the non-striker’s end. One run was needed for an unlikely victory. Salisbury was almost run out off the first ball, and Pigott was then caught by Cowdrey at slip off the second ball to bring what Wisden described as a ‘memorable contest’ to an end. The match was tied.
There have now been twenty-four tied matches since the ‘official’ County Championship began in 1890. Sussex have been involved in six of these matches: against Somerset at Taunton in 1919, Warwickshire at Hove in 1952, Hampshire at Eastbourne in 1955, Essex at Hove in 1974, Kent at Hove in 1984 and finally Kent at Hove in 1991.
The leading run-scorers in 1991, Neil Taylor and Alan Wells, were involved in a remarkable exchange in 1997. After Alan Wells had been stripped of his captaincy in early 1997, he declined to sign a new contract and moved to Kent. Taylor who had spent the 1996 season in Kent’s Second XI, signed for Sussex for the 1997 season. In that season, Taylor scored 996 Championship runs at an average of 38.30 whilst Wells made 1,055 runs at 37.67. In that remarkable 1991 tied match, Taylor scored 314 runs in his two innings whist Wells scored 236. Taylor had got the better of Wells in 1991, had he also done so in 1997?