The last time Sussex came to Headingley it suffered a heavy late-season defeat and was relegated to the second division. Six years later the south-coast county returns for the first time since that dénouement. Paul Dyson looks back at a game between these two historic counties at Headingley which took place in the 1960s.
June 18, 20, 1966: Sussex 231-4 (LJ Lenham 80, MG Griffith 57*, Nawab of Pataudi jnr 55) & 121 (R Illingworth 5-42, DB Close 4-38); Yorkshire 202 (JA Snow 5-79, A Buss 4-71) & 128 (JA Snow 5-41). Sussex won by 22 runs.
When this match took place Yorkshire was enjoying one of its best spells of form in its entire history. It had won the Championship in four of the previous seven seasons and had not been out of the top five since 1958. Coming into this match it was unbeaten, having won six of its nine matches thus far. Sussex, in contrast to Yorkshire’s 26 titles, had yet to win the Championship, its best position being runners-up which it had achieved on six occasions including a hat-trick in the 1930s. It had finished 16th (out of 17) in 1965, having slipped from fourth and 11th in the two seasons prior to that. It had, however, in each of those two years, won the first two Gillette Cup competitions and had obviously won a reputation for being more proficient at the one-day game. In the Championship’s current season it had won five and lost two of its 12 matches before this one.
It is not known which side won the toss but, in any case, Sussex batted and Fred Trueman took an early wicket. The veteran Ken Suttle was bowled for one to leave the score on two for one. That state of affairs did not continue as, on a pitch which played easily, each of the next three batsmen all made half-centuries. Les Lenham (80) shared stands of 90 with skip-per, Indian Nawab of Pataudi jnr (55) and 69 with the enterprising Mike Griffith who was 57 not out when the innings ended. Although the score was ‘only’ 231 for four, first innings were restricted to 65 overs at this time. Yorkshire did not find things so easy; skipper Brian Close was deputising as opening batsman for Geoff Boycott (who was playing at Lord’s in the second Test against the West Indies) and three wickets had gone down before the score-board had shown the 50-mark. The dismissal of John Hampshire for 34 just before close of play gave the hostile John Snow his third wicket and the home team finished on 97 for four, 38 overs already having been used up.
In contrast with Sussex’s first innings, Yorkshire did not manage to bat through its allotted 65 overs, being all out after 62.1, wickets falling regularly except after the score had reached 158 for nine. It was then that Don Wilson (31), who made the innings’ highest score, and Tony Nicholson put together a stand of 44 but their side still had to concede a lead of 29. Snow finished with five for 79; he and Tony Buss (four for 71) bowled almost 80% of the overs. In contrast, when it was Sussex’s turn to bat again, pace was soon dispensed with and off-spin, to which the pitch was responding, reduced the visitors from 42 for no wicket to 68 for six. Close took four of these wickets and he was aided by Ray Illingworth. A stand of 48 between two Peters – Graves and Ledden – was followed by another collapse in which Illingworth took three wickets as four fell for five runs and Sussex were all out for a mere 121, leaving Yorkshire 151 to win. Illingworth had taken five for 42 and Close four for 38.
But again it was Snow and Buss for Sussex. In spite of a changed batting order, they reduced the home side to 10 for three, Close making a duck, before Phil Sharpe and Illingworth kept them in the game with a half-century stand but there was another dramatic collapse when three wickets fell for one run and at 94 for eight there appeared to be only one winner. Subtle, bowling left-arm orthodox spin, had chipped in with three wickets but wicket-keeper Jimmy Binks and Wilson (again) kept Yorkshire in the match. However, scoring 57 more runs was always going to be a difficult task and the return of Snow provided the telling blows. He clean-bowled Wilson, did the same to Nicholson without addition to the total and Yorkshire’s 128 meant it had lost by 22 runs. Snow finished with five for 41 to complete match-figures of ten for 120. It is no surprise to note that he was restored to the England team for the next Test match which would be the third of his fledgling career. Although the extra half-hour had been taken the match went beyond this to conclude at 7.12 but it had still ended in two days, 26 wickets falling on the second.
This was Yorkshire’s first defeat of the season and the team were to lose four more in its final 18 matches. However, no other county had as many as its 15 victories and it managed to finish 18 points ahead of Worcestershire, who had won the two previous Championships, and win the title for the fifth time in eight seasons. Sussex, though, won none of its final 15 matches but had begun the campaign so well that it still managed seventh place and this was an improvement of nine places on its 1965 effort.
Profiled Yorkshire player:
With a total of 47 runs in the match, Phil Sharpe was outscored only by Illingworth and did much in both innings to keep Yorkshire in the game. However, it is as a brilliant slip fielder that he will always be remembered. His powers of concentration were immense and his stillness enabled him to delay catching the ball until the very last millisecond, it almost appearing as though the ball was going to go past his stockily-built frame. Often standing be-tween Jimmy Binks and Brian Close, batsman who edged the ball into that particular cordon knew that they were highly unlikely to get away with a missed chance.