Sussex versus Hampshire 19th June 1978
Good Old Sussex by the Sea was the reward for a journey involving three slam door trains, in time to see Gordon Greenidge and Trevor Jesty coming out to bat on a brilliant midsummer morning; two members of a particularly strong Hants team in the 1970s, albeit by the time this photo was taken one that was coming towards the end of its lifespan. The relatively small numbers of mature spectators, in the pavilion, in the deckchairs not unusual for a weekday in June; numbers tended to rise, to some extent, with those of school-age, their teachers and holiday-makers later in the summer. As for commercialisation in cricket 1978 style, the (slightly bedraggled) sign for Qantas is not all that surprising, even if Barmy Army travels were not to start for more than a decade; more of a surprise, maybe, is the sign for the Burnley Building Society to its right, advertising to cricket-goers in Hove.
In the summer of 1978 both counties had a schedule of 72 days of First-Class cricket of which this match was the fourth of six (3-day) fixtures in June, with, for the visitors, seven to follow in July; 16 days more than in the 2018 Championship, in a season 25 days longer now. It was also a time when the cricket season had a rhythm to it which is simply absent in 2018, the then 17 counties played most of their limited-overs fixtures on Sunday afternoons, when a new audience, younger members included, were most likely to be able to (and did) attend.
Happily Hove has retained the character of a cricket ground over the decades since: more comfortable seating for watchers in 2018, a better view looking up from the public stand built adjacent to the pavilion, an accommodation made with hospitality boxes and deckchairs there remain at the Cromwell Road end. A ground enhanced by its development, although anyone who can see something of the essence of English cricket in the photos here, or the way the ground is now, would surely see more of it with more balanced fixture scheduling.
In their book ‘Arlott, Swanton and the Soul of English Cricket’, Stephen Fay and David Kynaston argue that the changes in the game in the 1960s and 1970s were more fundamental and far-reaching than any for a century, and that ‘it was essentially money that drove change’; changing its nature, as distinct from the variety of formats. In other words cricket started to become less like a game.
This seems like a reasonable comment on the way of things then. On his retirement at the end of the 1980 season John Arlott wrote of his ‘abiding nostalgia’ for the county cricket circuit and the considerable charm the way of life gave its participants, at a time when the jobs available to many outside the game had little or no charm, or much in the way of holidays to recommend them. It could however also be said that more money comes with its advantages, which at the time included helping to attract many of the world’s finest cricketers to come and play in England.
The Hants team that played in this match had three ICC Hall of Fame cricketers, were led from the field at the end of it by Keith Stevenson, an ‘honest county pro’; appropriate to a reflection on the Arlott era. As for the financial rewards for playing then, the Hampshire players’ salaries in 1973, the year of their last Championship, amounted to somewhere around £450K in all (£2018); county cricketers have plainly been beneficiaries from the greater sums of money coming into the game since, although it could be fairly added, not the principal ones.