Sussex v West Indies

An Unexpected Victory in 1966

Sussex in 1966

Sobers, Hunte, Kanhai et al

In 1966, with the nation’s attention firmly fixed on the World Cup football, the West Indies cricket team returned to England just three years after its successful tour of 1963, and brought with them twelve of that side. Their batting line-up was truly impressive, led by captain Garfield (Garry) Sobers and vice-captain Conrad Hunte, and also including Rohan Kanhai, Seymour Nurse, Basil Butcher, Joey Carew, wicketkeeper Jackie Hendriks and all-rounder David Holford. With fast bowlers Wes Hall and Charlie Griffith, and spinner Lance Gibbs this was a side that was going to be difficult for England to beat.

West Indies won the First Test match at Old Trafford quite convincingly, by an innings and 40 runs in just three days – the first time England had lost in three days since 1938. Hunte had hit 135 in five hours on the first day, followed by  Sobers scoring 161 in 244 minutes. The only England batsmen to put up any kind of resistance in their second innings were Milburn (94) and Cowdrey (69), as Gibbs and Sobers bowled England out for 277 with Gibbs finishing with match figures of 10 for 106.

West Indies’ next match was a draw against Gloucestershire in Bristol with West Indies needing twelve off the last over to win. Although they scored eleven off the first five balls, Holford was bowled off the last ball of the day, leaving the scores level. West Indies then had to travel down to Hove for the three day match due to start the next (Saturday) morning, June 11. Sussex at the time were regarded as a ‘One-Day’ side having won the 1963 and 1964 Gillette cups. The side did have a number of Test players at the time in Jim Parks, John Snow and Alan Oakman although they were missing Ted Dexter, who was out for the season after breaking his leg in a car crash. For this match Sussex was to be captained by the Nawab of Pataudi, then also the captain of India.

A sea breeze and a grassy pitch

Pataudi won the toss and decided to put West Indies in to bat. There was a sea breeze and a bit of grass on the pitch but even so this was a decision criticised by many of the watching members, who now expected a run feast. By the middle of the afternoon though, the captain’s decision seemed to  have been justified as West Indies was bowled out for just 123 with only Carew, Nurse and Butcher reaching double figures. Sobers was caught by Parks off the bowling of Bates for a duck, but it was Snow who did all the damage, taking seven wickets for 29, and earning a call-up for the Third Test at Trent Bridge.

Sussex opened their innings before tea and soon were reduced to two for two with both openers, Suttle and Lenham, out without scoring. The captain, in the face of some aggressive bowling by Griffith in particular,  attempted to hold the innings together but the middle order collapsed with Sussex at six for forty. A spirited fight back by Peter Graves and Alan Oakman, batting at eight, left Sussex on seven for 122 overnight.

On the Monday, Graves (64)  and Buss (21) helped take Sussex to a first innings score of 185, a lead of 62, with Griffith and Cohen taking all of the wickets (Wesley Hall, Griffith’s usual bowling partner, had been rested). West Indies’ second innings was quite incredible with only two players, Solomon (17) and Lashley (14), making double figures. It was Snow again who did the damage getting another four wickets along with four also from Buss as West Indies collapsed to just 67 – the second worst total ever recorded by a West Indies side in England.

Suttle taken to hospital

Sussex needed just six runs to secure an unlikely victory, but the opening batsmen had to face a fired-up Griffith, who seemed to want to take out his anger at his own team’s performance on the Sussex batsmen. For his first over Griffith had all the fielders behind the batsman, Ken Suttle. The first ball was short pitched and hit Suttle on the jaw. He was taken to hospital for a precautionary X-ray, which showed up just bruising. In his column for the local Worthing newspaper, Suttle said of the delivery that “He wasn’t as fast as he was on the 1963 tour. The last time he hit me before I had time to deliver the shot. This time he hit me after I had finished it”.

The highlight of the season

Following Suttle’s retirement Graves came in and was quickly out lbw to Griffith without scoring, but Lenham and Parks steered Sussex to victory. The victory might have been the prelude to a successful season but this was not to happen. Sussex did manage to beat some of the top sides that season including winners Yorkshire and runners-up Worcestershire, however just eight victories in thirty games saw Sussex struggle in all competitions. Victory over the 1966 West Indians was a highlight for Sussex cricket in the later 1960s.

For details of the scorecard, click here