The arrival of that first warm and pleasant spring day means different things for different people. It can mean the first genuinely enjoyable chance to walk across the beach with a newly primed t-shirt and maybe, just maybe, an ice cream. For others it means a beer garden, or otherwise, it simply means the chance to read a good book in the garden.
What the arrival of the first fine spring weather means for a minority of us however, is the signal that once again it is the County Cricket season. Four days of pure relaxation watching the world’s most intricate and accomplished of sports. The chance to merrily stroll down the roads of Hove and into the idyllic County Cricket Ground to watch our local – and it has to be said often very successful cricket side: Sussex.
This view is of course not shared by everyone. Most people regard county cricket as less of a national sport and more of a niche pursuit. The thought for some people at watching a person with a strange shaped bat, being awarded points by an even stranger person in an odd shaped hat; is the nightmare way to spend the first spring days of the year. Indeed, it has been well-documented in recent years that county cricket is arriving at a critical junction. With falling spectator numbers, dilapidated grounds and an image that cricket is for the ruling class; some believe that the four-day variety of county cricket may not be here for too much longer.
Sussex County Cricket, however, might just be bucking this trend. The club are expected this season to offer one of the biggest threats to defending champions Yorkshire. After some shrewd off-season signings, as well as the return of ex-England stalwart Matt Prior, there are exciting times to come. The club are aiming to play an attractive brand of cricket to appeal to some of Brighton and Hove’s younger audiences. Indeed on their first home game of the season local boy Matt Machan hit a very entertaining 135 runs and Ajmal Shahzad issued a blistering five wicket haul in the final innings of the match.
It is not only Sussex’s prospective form on the pitch which puts them in good long-term stead. Continuing the trend of many local restaurants, the club allow you to bring, within reason,your own alcoholic beverages to the ground. The atmosphere can of course be sedate but it is also light-hearted, relaxed and charming. The picturesque ground, for example, is encompassed with some extremely satisfying deck-chairs. Where else in local sport can you have a beer and pleasurably doze off in a deckchair!
What a fine spring we have had in Brighton. As the heat primes to step up a notch into May and June, instead of taking a familiar walk down the beach, why not take up a day at the first-class cricket? After all who knows how long it might continue to be around for.