The Sunday League contest between Sussex and Glamorgan at Hastings in 1978 was the complete one-day game. It had everything – runs, wickets, fine catches, accurate bowling and the outcome remaining in the balance until the penultimate ball. However, if there were any budding poets in the crowd that afternoon, I doubt if they would have written about “a breathless hush in the close tonight”, as during the second half of this classic match, proceedings had to be temporarily halted as the Red Devils aerobatics team, performing at a nearby airshow, repeatedly flew low over the ground with a loud roar.
Earlier in the afternoon, Alan Jones had won the toss and invited Sussex to bat first in this match screened live on BBC 2 as part of their ‘Sunday Cricket’ programme. Kepler Wessels and Gehan Mendis launched the innings with a brisk opening partnership, before Imran Khan hit a forceful 54, during the course of which he hit seven fours, plus a huge six off Peter Swart. He eventually fell attempting a repeat of the shot, only to be magnificently caught at long on by a diving Barry Lloyd. Imran`s departure led to a drop in the scoring rate as Glamorgan`s young spin bowlers, Gwyn Richards and Barry Lloyd, put a brake on the run scoring as Sussex ended on 188-7.
Alan Jones and John Hopkins made a rapid start to the Glamorgan innings, but their progress was halted several times by the din of the Red Arrows swooping over the ground at rooftop height. After the openers had departed, Rodney Ontong and Malcolm Nash increased the temp with further lusty blows, but Glamorgan`s progress was stifled by some fine fielding – firstly, Imran took a splendid running catch to dismiss Nash, and then Arthur Francis was run out attempting a suicidal run.
Eifion Jones remained unflappable at the other end, even when the game went into the final over with Glamorgan still needing thirteen to win. Facing the experienced Geoff Arnold, Barry Lloyd got a thick edge to the first ball that flew to the boundary for four. After blocking the next delivery, Lloyd hit two more valuable runs, before scampering a single to leave Eifion Jones needing to hit six runs off the final two balls.
The doughty wicket-keeper only needed one ball, as he swung the fifth delivery of the over high over square leg for six. It stunned the large crowd of holiday-makers, but as Jones explained afterwards, it was a pre-planned shot – “I knew I had to hit a boundary, but there was little chance of getting one on the off-side, as Sussex had six fielders in a packed ring. With Arnold bowling the ball on middle-stump, I decided to swing across the line – if I had missed it would have bowled me, but instead, it went off the middle of the bat for six.” A match-winning stroke if ever there was one, and surely worthy of another flypast in celebration!