Hampshire & Sussex: Crossing The Divide

Following the signing of former Sussex captain, Ben Brown, Hampshire Cricket's historian Dave Allen looks back at other players who have made the switch in either direction

Following the recent announcement of the signing of the former Sussex captain, Ben Brown, Hampshire Cricket's historian Dave Allen looks back at the other players who have crossed the south coast divide in either direction.

On the final day of the 2021 Championship season, Danny Briggs bowled just one over, a maiden, dismissing Somerset’s Tom Lammonby and thereby contributing to Warwickshire’s victory which clinched the title in his first season at the club. Danny, from the Isle of Wight had of course played for Hampshire – and in white ball games for England – before moving to Sussex in 2016.

Since Sussex and Hampshire are first-class neighbours it is unsurprising that players might move from one to the other and while it seems that there are more ‘swops’ these days, the exchanges have a long history. One of the most fascinating stories involved James Southerton who played in two Test Matches in Melbourne in 1877 age 49 – still England’s oldest debutant. He was born in Petworth, in one season appeared for Sussex, Hampshire and Surrey and he played for his native county against us in our inaugural first-class match in 1864. One year later his 7-45 against Surrey led Hampshire to their first victory in a first-class match.

The first Hampshire XI in 1864 included Henry Frere from Odiham a fast, round-arm bowler who played in six games for the county and then once for Sussex. By contrast, Walter Humphreys from Southsea one of the last of the underarm lob bowlers, played for Sussex for 25 years, then became an umpire, until age 50, he at last appeared in two matches for his native county, with a best of 5-71 against Kent at Tonbridge. Ernest Read, from Portsmouth first played for Hampshire in three Championship matches and subsequently in four matches for Sussex in 1904 & 1906.

These moves were not always straightforward. Amateur George Wilder was born at Stansted Park, played in six first-class games for Sussex in 1905-1906 and also for the England XI in the historic match against Hambledon at Broadhalfpenny Down in 1908. Then in the following year, he played in a Championship match for Hampshire v Derbyshire at Southampton, but even as an amateur the authorities ruled he was not properly qualified, and he did not play again.

One of the saddest tales concerns another amateur, the fast bowler Kenneth Woodroffe from Lewes, Sussex 9.12.1892, who age 19 & 20 played in two matches for Hampshire with a best of 5-33 on debut v the South Africans. In 1914 he played in two matches for his native Sussex taking 6-43 v Surrey but he was killed in action in France in May 1915. Batsman Lionel Isherwood was born in Southsea in 1891 and survived the war but did not play for Hampshire until the end of hostilities; after five seasons he switched to Sussex, playing there from 1925-1927.

Surely the greatest cricketer – and the most remarkable man – to play for the two counties, was Charles Burgess (CB) Fry. At various times he represented England at cricket and football, played for ‘Saints’ in an FA Cup Final, and equalled the world long jump record; John Arlott described him as the most variously gifted Englishman of any age”. The major part of his career was with Sussex (1894-1908) but having taken a Naval training post on the River Hamble he switched to Hampshire. He played just 44 matches for his new county but his average, approaching 59, is the highest for any Hampshire batsman over a number of seasons. He was also the first of three Hampshire players to captain England, leading them in the 1912 Triangular Tournament against Australia and South Africa.

For many decades there was no player movement between the counties although Hampshire’s wicketkeeper Bobby Parks came from a notable Sussex cricket family. In the 1990s, Martin Thursfield came to Hampshire from Middlesex and later played a little with Sussex, then in 2000 Hampshire 2nd XI played their inaugural match at the Rose Bowl where Hampshire-born Billy Taylor bowled the first ball for Sussex 2nd XI to Jimmy Adams. Billy subsequently returned to Hampshire, enjoying a successful years and is now a first-class umpire.

A few former Sussex players have spent shorter periods at Hampshire; in 2003 Ed Giddins was a member of Hampshire’s first T20 side, Joe Gatting moved in 2014 for two seasons, while trialist batsman Dominic Clapp played one university game. Ollie Robinson came from Yorkshire for one limited-overs game before settling with Sussex, Reece Topley came from Essex, moved on briefly to Sussex and is now with Surrey, while in 2018 the former Sussex and Middlesex spinner Ollie Rayner came on loan to cover the absence of Liam Dawson and Mason Crane.

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