Visiting every county cricket ground #3: Hove

I had never been to the county ground in Hove, despite having lived in Brighton for a year.

Sun, seagulls and serenity: Sussex vs. Yorkshire at Hove, day 1, Thursday 20th April 2023.

Sure, I’ve cycled past it. Circled it. Peeked in from the car park, longingly. But all these activities took place in the off season – my life, geographically inconsistent, never lined up with seeing the oldest county cricket club [1] play a mere 2.9 miles from my flat.

This is week three of the county championship season. On the train down from London, I observed weird green things growing on the branches of trees. A huge ball of burning gas was in the sky. Beyond the windows I wasn’t allowed to open, birds were singing.

Was I about to be warm at the cricket for the first time this year?

I was certainly warm on arrival, choosing to cycle to the ground via the hill up the side of Brighton station and Seven Dials, an area that would be lovely if it wasn’t centred around a particularly nasty and confusing roundabout. [2]

Death by lorry successfully avoided, the long straight road west takes one straight to the ground, and as I cycled I looked for the telltale sign of floodlights peeking up amid residential flats, passing connecting roads that led downhill to thrilling glimpses of blue sea.

The county ground is surrounded by flats and even family homes, albeit homes on the grander scale. There are gardens backing on almost to the ground itself, giving it a delightfully suburban recreation ground feel, like Indian Test veteran Chetestwar Pujara is going to have his innings interrupted by his mum calling him in for his tea.

The entrance was a building site, new flats going up in place of a beloved pub – though a replacement is promised as part of the new development.

Sussex CC say the money will help secure the site for another 150 years of cricket, though I can’t see new residents allowing a pub in their luxury block.

Anyhoo. I bought my ticket from a portacabin, and was directed to some inadequate temporary railings to lock my bike to [3]. But at least my bike was within the ground.

Crap infrastructure, but still better than The Oval.

Armed with a cup of tea from the temporary facilities in front of the Tony Greig cafe (“one day we’ll have real milk”, said the server, wistfully), I reached my seat with Sussex having just lost their first wicket after an electric start. A lot of the pre-season chat was how the county game would react to Ben Stokes’ Test team reinvention.

Yahooing every ball is a trickier task under April skies. Sussex certainly gave it a crack, but were then hauled back by the Yorkists, who bowled with excellent control both sides of lunch, bottling up the scoring rate and chipping away through England castaway Dom Bess and Leeds twentysomething Jordan Thompson.

Pujara was dismissed, LBW to Thompson, and the stand around me emitted a collective sigh. The Indian legend averages nearly 100 down here, his game better suited to the ebb and flow of the four day game than the Indian Premier League. They clearly love him down here, and I’m sure they’d prefer Jofra Archer was working on his comeback on the south coast also.

Lunch and tea both offered the chance to wander on the playing area. Lots of local kids took part in a session, eight year olds really attacking the ball in their fielding and hurtling the ball at a single stump with venom.

Older fans were posing for selfies by the middle, the wicket studiously guarded by yellow-jacketed security. I love grounds that allow fans to do this – for half an hour, the barriers melt away, and a place for first class cricket becomes a local park once again (no dogs, though, understandably enough).

I also loved the grassy area with deckchairs and ice cream van, something every Test venue needs, not just those in New Zealand. The walk around to it – when not able to wander across the playing area – isn’t pleasant, as one shares it with cars trundling to and from car parking spaces, and are warned, counter-intuitively, against playing ball games.

Setting in for the afternoon session under the shadows of seagulls over third man, I was grateful for the free suncream, on offer via dispensers attached to the side of the stand. Despite the clear skies, it was cold, and I didn’t want to suffer the ginger ignominy of getting burnt in April.

I am beginning to understand the spatial dynamics of county cricket watching, whereby each man is afforded an invisible barrier of a few seats around, above, and below him, to be left alone with his tea, and his radio, to stare out and ponder.

As Sussex gradually got away again, I watched a crow with a chip in its beak glide gently away, and stuck on the local radio commentary. Apparently one of the commentators had contributed to the dismissal of one of the opening batsmen by saying “I hope he doesn’t get out next ball”, and you can guess what happened next. The metaphysics of jinxing, counter-jinxing, and reverse-jinxing are best explained below the line at the Guardian’s county cricket blog.

After tea, the skies darkened, the clouds lurked, and Tom Alsop got himself out for 95, to audible groans from the locals that weren’t dozing in deckchairs. It was time to head off into the easterly wind, down the hill, to the sea, and then home.

[1] The reality is more prosaic, but let’s pretend Sussex waited around for years while other counties got their act together, like Alexander Graham Bell before he got around to giving Watson a second receiver.

[2] Brighton has a Green-led council, but you wouldn’t know it for the roads. This is a city dominated by urban gyratories and a weird fear of encouraging active travel, once you depart the traffic-free tourist lanes.

[3] As I was leaving, another cyclist arrived and said “oh, I see they’ve removed the proper cycle stands”. Sort it out Sussex.


  1. Lovely, James!

    “like Alexander Graham Bell before he got around to giving Watson a second receiver.”

    Watson should have reviewed that immediately.

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