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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.


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