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Clive has fun...at the cricket

PUBLISHED: 10:10 21 March 2012 | UPDATED: 17:39 20 February 2013

Clive has fun...at the cricket

Clive has fun...at the cricket

In the first of his new series Clive Agran just wants to have fun. He sees if there is any to be found watching Sussex play

In the first of his new series Clive Agran just wants to have fun. He sees if there is any to be found watching Sussex play


Things have moved on, they tell me, since the golden days when watching cricket simply involved lazing in a deckchair just beyond the fine-leg boundary and quietly dozing off to the soothing sound of leather gently hitting willow. No longer, apparently, can you snooze for an hour or so without missing anything of consequence.Gone, Im told, are the refreshing cups of tea and crust-less cucumber sandwiches. Its altogether more exciting nowadays, they say.
Since cricket and excitement are words that are rarely found within 22 yards of each other, it is with a combination of curiosity and anticipation that I have come to the Hove home of the Sussex Sharks on a cool damp evening. Cricket, you see, is no longer confined to daylight hours and a steady drizzle doesnt stop play in the way that it used to.
Like many others who quite like the game, my interest in cricket heretofore has been mostly limited to England test matches. I can name at least some of the England team, know that we recently won the Ashes and have a rough idea where forward short-leg is even if I would rather not be standing there when Kevin Pietersen is batting.
But, much to my shame, apart from the fact that they won the county championship a year or so ago and are the reigning t/20 and Pro40 champions, I dont know much about Sussex. But that shouldnt be a problem because my good friend Steve, who knows pretty well everything there is to know about cricket in general and Sussex cricket in particular, is accompanying me this evening.
We meet for a pint in The Sussex Cricketer before the match. Its jam-packed with enthusiastic Sussex supporters and I feel comfortable amongst my own kind. Theres all the excitement and anticipation that precedes a football match but with none of the aggression or menace. This is a demonstrably friendly crowd that isnt about to turn nasty.
Keeping my voice down so as not to broadcast the huge extent of my ignorance, I ask Steve if this evenings encounter with the Somerset Sabres is an important one. Its our first t/20 match of the season and a repeat of last years final, he reveals before explaining this years new format which splits the teams into two groups of eight with the top two in each going through to the semi-finals. A win tonight would provide the perfect start to our title defence.
Inside the packed ground were each given a flag to wave when theres a Mango Moment. Its a soft drink promotion and Im just hoping that Ill recognise a Mango Moment if and when one comes along. The public address informs us that the Sabres won the toss and put the Sharks into bat. Big mistake, suggests Steve. Not many teams batting second win here.
We tip the rainwater off a couple of seats quite close to a black sightscreen and sit down just in time to see the two teams emerge from the pavilion between two columns of half-hearted smoke. Its the first Mango Moment, apparently, and both Steve and I quickly enter into the spirit of things by dutifully waving our flags. Those unfortunates without a Mango Moment flag wave an assortment of 4 and 6 signs or anything else they have to hand. Seemingly everyone is waving something and a carnival atmosphere is developing beneath the bright floodlights. The cheerleaders (the Sharkettes?) are frantically leaping about and contribute to the burgeoning frenzy.
To the accompaniment of some indistinct throbbing sounds that might possibly be music, the dark-blue Sabres run out onto the pitch closely followed by the Sharks two opening batsmen in light-blue gear, Luke Wright and Murray Goodwin. Wright performed well in Englands t/20 World Cup winning side and is an undoubted hero.
Only one run is scored in the first over and Im already beginning to fret that Sussex are falling behind the clock. 140 would be a good score this evening, comments Steve. At this rate well only make 20, I reply.
Goodwin hits the first boundary in the second over, from which 12 runs are scored. And Wright thumps a towering six in the third and we both stand up and wave our flags. You cant bowl short to Luke Wright, observes Steve. The third over produces a veritable run-fest. No fewer than 22 are scored in an impressive display of power hitting.
In the first six overs, the bowling side is only allowed to have two fielders outside a circle that rings the pitch. Consequently, there are significant scoring opportunities for batsmen willing to wield the willow. Wright and Goodwin make the most of theirs and the 50 comes up (a significant Mango Moment) in the sixth over. Its an eventful over as Wright smashes another six before being caught in the deep trying to hit yet another off the very next ball. At the end of it, Sussex are 58 for one. Chris Nash is the new batsmen and Steve pays him the considerable compliment of likening him to Luke Wright.
Bowlers can bowl no more than four overs and the attack is changed so frequently that its rare for one to bowl more than two in one spell. T/20 cricket is dramatically different from the conventional game because things happen quickly, changes are frequent and it never slips into a soporific routine. Judging by the many women and children in the crowd, this formula clearly has broader appeal than conventional cricket.
Somerset bring on a spinner in the eighth over and the run-rate drops. My growing anxiety is heightened when Goodwin is caught off the last ball of the ninth over. He made 30 and is replaced by a big-hitting, West Indian superstar, Dwayne Smith, who receives a rapturous reception. The air of expectancy is almost tangible as he takes guard, the batsmen having crossed whilst the last catch was being taken. Hes hit on the pad first ball, the Somerset fielders appeal and hes given out LBW. No, its certainly not a Mango Moment; its a shattering disappointment. Sussex are now 79 for three and, to make matters worse, the previously inconspicuous Somerset supporters start singing.
Ed Joyce jogs to the middle
. He scored a hundred for England against Australia in a one-day game, Bill Frindall er, I mean Steve informs me. An appeal for a stumping goes to the third umpire and everyone looks at the big screen where a coin spins while we await the decision. Not Out. Yes, another Mango Moment.
With the field spread out, singles are comparatively easy to come by while boundaries are not. The 100 comes up in the 13th over but wickets are falling.
Joe Gatting, son of Arsenal footballer Steve Gatting and nephew of former England skipper Mike, comes to the crease, scores a single and is out. Sussex are now 107 for five and the run rate is little more than seven an over. Yardy, Sussexs other World Cup hero, is caught for four but Yasir Arafat (no, not that one) hits a six and, thanks to an unbroken partnership with Andy Hodd of 35 off just 19 balls, the Sharks reach 155 for seven.
Steves prediction that this total will be enough looks suspect as former England opener Marcus Trescothick and World Cup winner Craig Kieswetter rack up 32 runs for the Sabres in the first three overs. Then, in the fifth, Trescothick is caught by yet another former England international, James Kirtley.
Having achieved the breakthrough, the Sharks scent blood and the Sabres appear rattled. With Yardy bowling particularly well, Somerset lose a further three wickets in four overs and crumble to 53 for four. As they fall further and further behind the clock, they grow increasingly desperate, play too many risky shots and are eventually all out for a miserable 103.
The Sussex players hug one another, the crowd goes wild, the Sharkettes turn cartwheels and Steve and I celebrate with a carton of mango juice, naturally.


Fancy Watching Sussex?


Aug 18-21: County Championship match against Derbyshire at Horsham. 11am start each day.


Aug 22: Forty overs each, one-day match against Somerset at Horsham 1.45pm start.


Aug 25: Forty overs each, one-day match against Glamorgan at Hove. 4.40pm start, floodlit.


Aug 27-30: County Championship match against Glamorgan at Hove. 11.00am start each day.


Sept 4: Forty overs each, one-day match against Surrey at Hove. 1.45pm start.


Sept 7-10: County Championship match against Northamptonshire at Hove. 10.30am start each day.

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