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Hove has been the centre of cricket in the county since 1791 when the Prince Regent gave a piece of land to the local cricketers. This Prince of Wales ground was the first pitch used regularly by the county team from 1815 onwards but like many other grounds it was an ideal building site and was sold for development in 1847.
The Sussex County Cricket Club, as it is now, was formed in 1839 and thus has the distinction of being the oldest county side. All their home games were played on the Royal Brunswick ground close to the sea front until once again the extension of Brighton suburbs overran it. On the nearby Sandford Estate a field holding a good crop of barley was available and this was purchased by the club in 1871. With the barley harvested the turf was removed from Brunswick and relaid in its present position at the county ground where the first game took place against Kent in 1872.
The pavilion is large and has grown as needs demanded. It consists of various levels of balconies, odd stairways and a steeply banked seating terrace giving a square to the wicket view. The walls inside are covered with photographs and a glass case displays the early equipment of Joe Vine, Harry Butt and other famous names from the past. It is truly a cricket treasure house and often when looking for a particular item one finds something quite unexpectedly interesting.
The ground slopes slightly towards the sea and a ball from this end can sometimes get lost against the stand. This, and the sea fret which makes the ball swing and dip, can bring early thrills on a green wicket but too often when the life is gone it becomes so very placid.
Duleepsinhji, prince of batsmen, amassed 333 in a day's play here and the big hitting of H. T. Bartlett won him the Lawrence Trophy for a century in 57 minutes from the 1938 Australians, but these were insignificant beside the fantastic performance of Alletson of Nottingham who made his one and only big score of 189 in 90 minutes, the last 142 coming in 40 minutes after lunch.
Of all the great names of Sussex cricket perhaps Maurice Tate is remembered with the most affection. From 1912 he shouldered the bowling of Sussex and England over the next 25 years and when he finally sent down his last over Sussex honoured him with a magnificent pair of gates at the main entrance.
Towering blocks of flats now hem in the ends of the ground but they cannot change its character, for it has mellowed in the history of the game and is an area worthy of the best in cricket. Set no more than a long stone's throw from the sea, Hove has the atmosphere of a sea-side resort, and the deck chairs at the northern end add to that feel. The sea can bee glimpsed from the pavilion (side on to the wicket) and splendid views of the South Downs are partially obscured by the flats.
These days, Hove has a slightly decrepit air, but that adds to its appeal, and the clash of the old and new is best highlighted by the eight floodlights which tower of the ground.
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