ARUNDEL Castle was not its usual happy hunting ground for Sussex County Cricket Club at this year’s annual Arundel Festival of Cricket.
For the first time since 2004, Sussex failed to win either of their matches at the annual festival. They drew the County Championship Division 1 match with local rivals Surrey, which ran from Wednesday until Saturday, and then crashed to a 62-run defeat to Northamptonshire in YB40 Group A on Sunday.
A host of international stars were in action during the festival, which attracted crowds of upwards of 3,000 for both the Friday of the Championship match and the YB40 clash on Sunday.
England wicketkeeper Matt Prior and former Australia Test captain Ricky Ponting were among the stars in action during the Championship match, although the festival got off to a frustrating start as the first day on Wednesday was rained off without a ball being bowled.
Hard work by the ground staff enabled the action to get underway just 15 minutes after the scheduled start time on Thursday. Surrey won the toss and captain Vikram Solanki unsurprisingly put Sussex into bat on a overcast day, with a blustery wind.
Sussex were all out for 295 as Michael Yardy hit 69, Luke Wright and Chris Jordan 41 and Prior 38.
Surrey batted all day on Friday, in glorious sunshine, with a large crowd in attendance, and they declared on 456-9 on Saturday morning.
Solanki and Zander de Bruyn both made centuries and Chris Tremlett hit a quickfire 54 from just 33 balls, but Ponting made just 13.
Sussex had the majority of Saturday to bat out for the draw, which they comfortably managed, as the captains shook hands on the draw with Sussex 201-2 from 59 overs once Chris Nash had completed his hundred. Sussex remain unbeaten in the County Championship but dropped to third and are now 10 points behind new leaders Yorkshire.
An estimated crowd of 3,000 watched the action on Sunday. Play was delayed by 15 minutes owing to morning rain and the game got underway with 39 instead of 40 overs a side.
Sussex won the toss and opted to field and Northamptonshire scored 191-6 from their 39 overs as Alex Wakely struck 69 and Ben Duckett hit a run-a-ball 47 as spinners Nash and Will Beer took two wickets each for Sussex.
Sussex’s innings got off to the worst possible start as Nash, Luke Wright and Luke Wells were all out with the score on one.
Captain Ed Joyce’s dismissal left Sussex 7-4 after 5.3 overs and it was always going to be a struggle from then onwards. Rory Hamilton-Brown fell for 11 after a 25-run stand with Mike Yardy, which made the score 32-5.
Yardy and Ben Brown gave Sussex fans a glimmer of hope with a 74-run stand but their partnership was ended when Yardy went for a big shot off David Willey and was bowled for 52.
Brown was bowled by Azharullah 11 runs later for 40 and Northants soon wrapped up victory as Sussex were all out for 128 in 34.3 overs and the defeat all but ended their hopes of reaching the semi-finals.
After the match, the PA announcer thanked Arundel Castle secretary Joe Hudson on behalf of the county for all his help over the years as he is stepping down as secretary after 12 years in the role.
Speaking about the festival afterwards, Hudson said: “It’s been a very interesting few days. Unfortunately, Wednesday didn’t exactly help get us off to the start that we wanted but we had a very nice Thursday once the wind had died down. And on Friday, we had a fantastic crowd. Saturday was, I suppose, the inevitable draw but still there was quite a few people here, which was great to see.
“Today, first thing this morning, I thought we’re in trouble, here comes the rain again but it very kindly obliged and cleared at about 1.15pm and we started only 15 minutes late and away we went, 39 overs a side, but, sadly, the home side came up with a losing end, which was a shame.
“It was a very good crowd on Friday and again today. At a wild guess, around two-and-a -half to three thousand today and a little more than that on Friday.”
On stepping down as Arundel Castle secretary, he added: “It’s time for some younger legs I think. I’ve really enjoyed it, it’s been great and I’ll still come up here as I live locally. I’m a life member of the club and I’ll come and be a spectator and let everybody else do the work in future.”