The Hundred is happening this year after all - for two Sussex teams who have been meeting since 1851
One of the oldest fixtures in sporting history – the cricket match between the Gentlemen of Lewes and the Gentlemen of Firle – is to be played in the game’s newest format, the 100, this Wednesday.
A poster in the Firle clubhouse shows that this particular contest has been on the sporting calendar since at least 1851.
The game was played on Thursday, September 4 that year, with the poster proudly boasting: “A DINNER will be provided by Mr Mockett, of the Ram Inn, at Two o’clock”.
Historical reference to the Gentlemen of Lewes dates back to 1753 - they played their home fixtures on the Dripping Pan, Lewes, now the home of Lewes Football Club.
With recreational cricket now permitted again in the wake of coronavirus, a time traveller from 1851 would notice some major differences between the first recorded game and this week’s fixture, to be played from 5.30pm behind the Ram Inn at Firle this Wednesday (July 22).
For one, no dinner will be served in the pub, with all players required to bring their own refreshments. Social distance on the pitch will be observed – second, fourth, and six slips only, and no silly mid anything.
Wicket takers and teammates will observe Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty’s advice not to hug but just bump elbows. And hand sanitiser breaks every few overs – for all fielders’ hands and the ball – are now a routine part of the post-Covid game.
But most different of all will be the format. With coronavirus nixing the start of the England & Wales Cricket Board’s new Hundred competition, the Gentlemen of Firle and Lewes have decided to swap out the 'old-fashioned' Twenty-20 format and give the 100 a go; ten, ten-ball overs, allowed to be bowled by multiple bowlers, with five from one end, five from the other.
Steve Hall, skipper of the Gentlemen of Lewes, said: “After a crazy year, it’s great to back doing what we do best (and in some cases worst): playing cricket. Even before the pandemic, we’d decided to give the modern ‘100’ twist to this most ancient of fixtures – a game with its origins five years before New Zealand was established as an independent country.
"It’s sure to be chaotic, though it’s fair to say that some of our more errant bowlers have been known to bowl ten-ball overs in the usual format. We love playing Firle, and we can’t wait to see how it goes this week.”
Shaun Treloar, the Firle captain, added: “The club are delighted and excited to be hosting our inaugural 100 match against one of our oldest opponents. We are all excited by the change in format and are hopeful our bowlers have the stamina for 10 ball overs, the batsmen just hope they can stay in that long for a change. With the weather set fair, another barmy night of cricket as the sun sets in Firle is eagerly awaited.”