No one is looking forward to Sussex’s long-awaited return to Eastbourne this Sunday than Ben Brown, even though he won’t be able to play.
Brown is ruled out of the Royal London One-Day Cup against Gloucestershire because of a broken thumb but still plans to be at the Saffrons, where Sussex will play for the first time for 17 years, as it’s a venue he has fond memories of from his days as a club cricketer.
Brown played for Eastbourne in the Sussex League for a decade after making his debut in 2004 and knows that the host club will pull out all the stops to make sure the venue once again has a permanent place on the county fixture list.
“I think everyone connected with Eastbourne cricket is hugely excited by the thought of top-level domestic action returning to the Saffrons and I'm no different,” he said.
“There's a good history of first-class cricket in Eastbourne and many people at the club, including (chairman) Ian Fletcher-Price, have worked so hard to get this fixture in the calendar.
“I had some really special years at the club and formed some great friendships. We really enjoyed our cricket in that period and had a very competitive side,” he added.
“Guys like Ollie Rayner and Tom Smith have gone on to have excellent careers and James Kirtley, a Sussex and Eastbourne legend who played occasionally, made it a competitive side that was hugely enjoyable to play in.”
Smith is likely to be in the Gloucestershire team on Sunday. Born in Eastbourne, the left-arm spinner grew up watching county cricket at the Saffrons and also played for the club.
“When I first heard that a match was coming to Eastbourne, I really hoped that Gloucestershire would be Sussex’s opponents. It's always my favourite fixture of the season to play Sussex and to play them on my home ground makes it even more special,” he said.
“Going to county week at the Saffrons as a young boy with my Dad will always be a really fond memory for me and to hopefully be involved in one is amazing. My Eastbourne cricketing days were some of my fondest days in cricket and Ben and I owe Eastbourne Cricket Club a lot for their huge part in our careers.”
Eastbourne had been a part of the Sussex fixture list for more than a century when it was axed in 2000 after former Chief Executive Dave Gilbert described the wicket and facilities as “not fit for purpose.”
The club are hoping for a crowd of around 3,000 as Sussex look for the win that would cement their place in the top three of the South Group.