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1963 KO Cup. Memories

1963 Knock-Out Cup. Ted Dexter remembers.

As I held the coveted silver cup above my head in front of the mighty Lord's pavilion after a pulsating victory over Worcestershire, it was the thrill of the moment rather than the historical significance that was uppermost in my mind.

Of course we were not to know if this new competition would be repeated. It might have been just a one-off.So we were just living in the moment and enjoying every minute of the experience. All the more so because until the final hour of the match few betting men would have given Sussex a hope in hell.

So what had happened to the considerable skills we had shown as we won our way through to the Final? Why did we make such a small total? And why were two great bowlers like Snow and Thomson unable initially to redress the balance.

Remember that this was a 65 overs a side match - scarcely conceivable to anyone brought up in the modern era. So there was time for what may be called "proper" cricket. But Sussex strengths were born of the sporting pitch at Hove with swing and bounce. Lord's tended to be much the same often enough - except that this time we found a very unfamiliar dry, dusty surface, more like Ahmedebad than St John's Wood. Worcestershire had three recognised spinners, Slade, Gifford and Horton and we had barely a one.

Winning the toss we batted and were going well enough at 62 for no wicket but that soon became 98 for four, all out to the spinners. Only Jim parks held firm and to be all out for 168 with 5 unused overs was pretty disastrous - we were grateful that the third highest scorer was the extras column!!

Looking at the Worcester scorecard I am a bit flummoxed to see that John Snow appears last in the list of bowlers. It cannot have been an oversight by the Captain, surely. But it may have been in an attempt to throttle the scoring rate early on, starting with Thomson and Buss.

Their batsmen seemed confident that they had plenty of time and at 91 for three needing less than 80 more, things looked pretty bleak. A change of tactic was needed so I threw the ball to Alan Oakman whose off-spin was no more than an occasional divertion in Championship games.

I can still hardly believe it but the tall, smiling, laid back opening bat and superb slip fielder managed to bowl 13 overs for just 17 runs. He had a particularly good tussle with Ron Headley who was looking to hit the ball sure enough but Alan's line was so consistent that there was always a fielder in the way.

Slowly, slowly we started to get them fretting and at last I came to my senses and unleashed a fresh and eager John Snow who defeated Broadbent before skittling the tail: 3 for 13 off 8 overs.

There is no doubt that Sussex were very lucky with the draw as the early rounds came and went. We had more than our fair share of home matches which built up the crowd support enormously and the smallish Hove ground was simply bulging all summer.

Mostly our tactics had been to bat first if possible. Then we would look to keep wickets in hand before starting to accelerate through the last twenty overs. As for the bowlers, I asked nothing more of them than to bowl every ball to hit the stumps. Wide on the off-side was a no-no. Short of a length with the ball going over the top was a no-no. Up and straight allowed me to set fielders according to the strengths and weaknesses of all the different batsmen. To right handers we often had 6 on the leg side. To left-handers we had to split the field 5/4. Early in the innings we had close in men in front of he wicket to stop any quick singles.

At the same time other County Captains and bowlers were coming up with some pretty weird and wonderful plans to control the scoring rate. I remember Trevor Bailey suggesting that with a fully defensive field, he would back himself to keep things down to two an over. When we played an early round in deepest Essex one year, he went for four or five times as many!

If lack of a good spinner or two had tended to deny Sussex the chance of winning Championships played on uncovered pitches, our seam bowling quartet of Snow, Buss, Thomson and Bates was well suited to the shorter games. When we won again in 1964 and narrowly lost another Final, we had not only had a lot of fun and fulfilment as players but we had given our supporters some great days to remember and cherish.

Of course these were as nothing compared with the three Championship wins in 5 years of recent memory - but that first Sussex win in 1963 had been a hundred odd years in coming and was all the sweeter for that.

The best of the best

The best of the best.

Mentally I have run out of superlatives for the manner of the England fight back and final victory over India in the 2nd Test in Mumbai. The skill levels with both bat and ball were sky high and all against the odds. Wow! what a match.

When Cook lost the toss for the second time running, giving India first use of a pitch which everyone predicted, and rightly, would give the spinners much help, the outlook was bleak indeed. Including Monty Panesar was a given, though it seemed unreasonable at the time to expect too much of him on his sudden recall to the colours. Once again the selectors missed a trick by including Broad who cannot buy a wicket or a run at the moment. With Bell away on "maternity leave" there was every reason to play Morgan as an extra batsman - but it was not to be.

After a decent first day in the field, with the ball already turning sharply enough, the second day partnership between Pujara and Ashwin seemed to have tilted the scales heavily towards India. Then when Compton and Trott went cheaply, all, and I mean all, the match, the series, his personal credibility etc etc rested on the shoulders of Kevin Pietersen.

Typically he hit his very first ball for four. Soon enough he was hitting over the top. Next he was jumping away to leg to hit the short stuff and one could begin to dream of some kind of England recovery. Meanwhile Cook was at his clinical best, sweeping the left armer remorselessly from outside his off stump and rotating the strike in text book fashion.

I have watched England play for nearly fifty years since I retired and I put this batting partnership as a clear number one. A measure of the effect of Pietersen's brilliance at one end and Cook's clear headed assurance at the other was that the Indian spinners were never allowed to bowl to their own plan. It was the England pair calling the tune and by the third morning, you could say that Ashwin, Ojha and even the experienced Harbhajan were reduced to bowling rank badly.

I watched in admiration until Pietersen reached 150 but then had to drag myself away from the TV for a long standing appointment - surprise, surprise, on the golf course. I told my playing partners of the wonderful happenings in Mumbai and reckoned that if Pietersen managed to reach 200, then England would have a fair chance of winning. In the event 186 turned out to be more than enough.

I had rung Susan on my way home to get the score and heard that we led by 80 or so but that the Indians had not lost a wicket. By the time I was settled in front of the box it was time for the highlights and it was scarcely believable the way the Indian batting crumbled away. We had thought that the admirable Pujara and the potential brilliance of Kohle was compensating for the loss of the retired greats Laxman and Dravid. But with Tendulkar possibly on the wane, there were a few cracks showing which England exploited fully.

So we come to the prizegiving! Pietersen takes the top spot but the 11 wickets of Panesar made it a very close run thing. As the match progressed his accuracy made batting against him a real problem and to see the bowler's intensity and involvement was something to relish and remember.

It was a classic Test match with tremendous credit due to the whole England team and their many support staff. It will be a happy dressing room for the Third Test in Kolkata - and I will be there.!!

Comparisons can be odious

Comparisons can be odious.

The statisticians have been enterprising during the Mumbai Test with like for like comparisons. They put Geoff Boycott up against Alastair Cook which put the England Captain slightly ahead - which in turn amused Sunil Gavaskar. As a practical joker of some skill, Sunil has not been slow to target our Geoffrey from time to time and he was biting his cheek to keep a straight face when asked to compare the two. Where the comparisons are hard to justify are the change of conditions and equipment. Boycott played quite a while on uncovered pitches and without a helmet throughout his career.

Then the figures experts put Swann alongside Jim Laker which was mathematically even but somewhat loaded in Swann's favour due the vast increase in lbw decisions for the current player - undoubtedly due to the Decision Review System (DRS) which allows umpires to give those half-ball decisions: and we have seen already in the Mumbai Test that without DRS the umpires are back to the good old days when the half-ball decisions go in the batsmen's favour.

Least valid was the comparison between Ian Botham and Ashwin over the first ten Test Matches of their careers. Ashwin has been thrown into action against the best in the world. Botham got an early call into Test cricket because the established players had been bought out of Test cricket by the Australian media mogul Kerry Packer. Six of the first ten Tests for Botham were against a very modest Pakistan side, two against New Zealand and just 2 against Australia. In fact it was 25 Tests before England's " best ever" all-rounder came up against the powerful West Indians in a five match home Series. In 8 innings he scored a modest 148 runs at an average of 18. His biggest single innings wicket haul was 4 - altogether just 14 victims with plenty of runs conceded. So in this case comparisons, if not necessarily odious are certainly not to be given much weight.

Don't get me wrong. I had a high regard for the Botham wicket-taking style from early on. I was commentating with Keith Miller who thought that here was a fine cricketer in the making to which I replied that he was already pretty good. So you could say we were both right. It is down to the commentators to provide a proper perspective for these bald figures, something that so far they have been reluctant to do.

Batsmen,bowlers, Captains and field placings

Bowlers, batsmen, Captains and field placings.

Watching the Australian bowlers at Brisbane (I hesitate to call it an attack), only the addition of Pattinson can suspend sentence. Without him the same old faces bowled the same old fare. I thought that Hilfenhaus had learned a little during the series v India, getting the ball to nip back more often than against England but his arm seems to have dropped again and the ball swings too early to be much of a threat.

I felt for the persevering Siddle who is never anything but hardworking, when a tiny error on the front crease cost him Jack Kallis' wicket - sometimes the hawkeye system seems to get in the way of fair play - but he remains a second or third change bowler, not the opening strike man that every team is looking for.
Pattinson brings a bit more aggression to the party which is much needed but he has a way to go before he can command instant respect from batsmen like a Steyn or a Morkell and even an Anderson.

Of the batsmen there was the expected Amla/Kallis show which is deeply impressive whatever the conditions but make no mistake this was the flattest Gabba pitch in living memory. And it certainly needed to be to allow Michael Clarke to continue his remarkable run spree on this particular ground. Early in his innings he was frankly all over the place.

One particular incident made a strong impression - and not a very pretty one at that. One of the SA fast bowlers hung on to the ball just at the moment of release. Nevertheless Clarke was already committed to a big stride forward, almost falling over in the process. Not surprisingly he was in all sorts of trouble when the ball was short of a length, twice spooning up ballooning shots off the outside edge - both times getting away with it as the ball fell just clear. There were miscues through the gully area and inside edges past the stumps. But that is the essence of cricket.It seldom goes according to the script. And the resulting not out double hundred was not only one in the eye for the purists but a testament to Clarke's concentration and absolute self belief.

As the match unfolded with a DRAW looming larger by the day it became clear that a lack of variety in both attacks was a major drawback and with neither side having any obvious options, it may need a more sporting pitch if they are to get a result or two.

This morning interest switched to England's fitness problems before the 1st Test in India. It is hard to see them being a tight bowling unit from day one but at least every one of the batsmen has spent good time in the middle and will walk out to bat with a decent level of self confidence.

I was more taken with the Shane Warne column laying out a number of dos and donts for any team touring India. Some of it was a bit trite and self evident but his description of the carefully constructed bowling plans which he personally devised for the Australians in 2004 was a real eye opener - being, as he admits, largely counter intuitive. The theory is that when the ball is moving around enough for bowlers to experiment and give rein to their attacking instincts - the Captain should not overreact with attacking fields which give away runs. Conversely, when nothing is happening and bowlers are just bowling repetitively, then that is the time to post more close fielders. I may have tried something similar in my time but without having such a clear picture of the raison d'etre.

I certainly recognise an oft repeated failing of recent England Captains who insist on packing the slips and gullies for Anderson's away swing with little or no cover on the leg side. The result is all too often a string of off-side maiden overs with hardly a ball being played. It is only natural for any bowler to shy away from bowling too straight if there are gaping holes on the other side of the field. Captain Cook would do well to embrace the Shane Warne plan which makes more and more sense the more one opens up to the principles involved.

Tribute to Andrew Strauss at SUNNINGDALE Dinner in his honour

Edward Dexter

Tribute to Andrew Strauss.
The first thing you notice about Andrew Strauss is that he has a wonderful smile. You would think that butter wouldn't melt in his mouth - but it obviously does because anyone who can handle such a diverse gang of potential hoodlums as the England cricket squad is clearly made of stern stuff.
I had dealings with him immediately after the first Test he Captained at Lord's when he was said to have refused to lead " three cheers for Her Majesty The Queen". His very position in society was at stake - or at least his possible Membership of Sunningdale ( one and the same thing, one might say) - but it turned out to be a simple misunderstanding - nothing more. I found him accessible and straightforward - as you might reasonably expect of an alumni of the same school as yours truly.
However his qualities were not immediately recognised when, despite his successful Captaincy, winning a series against a formidable Pakistan side - he was dumped in favour of the "peoples" favourite Freddie Flintoff. And of that particular gaffe of monumental proportions, enough said.
During his hugely successful term of Captaincy, I tended to send him an e-mail about once every two years and they were always answered by return. If it was about his batting he would say " I'm working on it". if it was about tactics or strategy on the field he might use that old military terminology - "message received and understood" non committal but polite and friendly always.
For a while I thought his "on the field" handling of bowlers was a little stereotypical. Ray Illingworth was the most astute of England Captains I have seen. But maybe our Raymond was too tough on anyone underperforming and that can lead to resentment. When "Illy" won the Ashes in Australia in 1971, he promised to open a bottle or two of champagne in the team room back at the hotel. Rumour has it that only two of his team bothered to turn up!!
To create a confident and cohesive team atmosphere over a period of weeks and months is no easy task, so Andrew deserves enormous credit for achieving just that.
From all I hear his golf is of good quality and it would be to the Club's advantage to foster his obvious management skills. Captain of Sunningdale would probably stretch his diplomacy way beyond anything he has had to do so far - but someone has to do it and, frankly, who could possibly have better credentials.