Sheffield Park is a beautiful historic estate in the heart of rural Sussex now managed by the National Trust. The cricket pitch at Sheffield Park hosted many illustrious international players and teams in the late 19th and early 20th century. It has been restored, and now offers a picturesque and historic setting to play and watch cricket.
The Third Earl of Sheffield
Henry North Holroyd, the Third Earl of Sheffield, was born in London in 1832. He nurtured a lifelong passion for cricket, first ignited whilst he was at Eton. When he inherited the family estate at Sheffield Park in 1876 he found himself in the enviable position of having the means to indulge his passion, and he went on to become one of the most important and generous benefactors of cricket during his era.
Before inheriting the estate, he had already established his own cricket pitch in the grounds. The cricket ground was exceptionally scenic and beautifully maintained boasting two grand pavilions, and matches held there regularly attracted up to 25 000 spectators. No admission fee was ever charged for these matches.
Australian cricket and the early Ashes
Lord Holroyd had a close relationship with the legendary W.G. Grace, who captained his cricket team on a number of occasions later on in his career. The Third Earl funded a tour to Australia during 1881 and 1882 in which Lord Sheffield’s XI, captained by Grace, faced a number of regional Australian teams. The tour also included three test matches. He also donated the Sheffield Shield to the Australian domestic game: this is still contested today as the premier domestic cricket competition in Australia.
After the Ashes were devised in 1882, Sheffield Park became the first English ground to host an Australian team on an Ashes tour. Australia played their first warm up match of the 1884 Ashes tour against Lord Sheffield’s XI, once again with W.G. Grace as captain. Australia won this encounter by an innings and six runs, and they returned to open four further tours here.
The demise of the ground
After Lord Holroyd’s death in 1909, the ground at Sheffield Park fell into disrepair. In the First World War it was planted with wheat, and later trees were planted as the area was returned to parkland.
The Armadillos Cricket Club
The Armadillos cricket club was founded in 1983 by a group of regulars at Twickenham. The inaugural fixture was a cricket match with family and friends at Ashdown Forest Cricket Club. Twelve of the original twenty two players are still involved in Club affairs, but membership has swelled to over 50.
The Armadillos regularly play other sides in the Sussex area and further afield, and have been on foreign tours to destinations such as Corfu and Barbados. Until recently, they were a wandering team but in 2009 they took up residence at Sheffield Park, having raised the funds necessary to restore the pitch and build a new timber pavilion.
The newly restored ground hosted a celebration match on 28th June 2009 between the National Trust Old England XI, including John Lever and John Snow, and Lord Sheffield’s Australian XI. This happy event marked the re-opening of the ground, and also corresponded with the centenary of the Third Earl’s death. He would no doubt be delighted that the public can now watch cricket again in the beautiful setting of Sheffield Park, with matches taking place throughout the summer.
World Cricket Player Nicknames
It may have something to do with players having time on their hands during rain breaks or whilst the opposition are batting, but when it comes to finding nicknames for team mates and opponents cricketers are certainly a creative bunch. This also applies to the fans coming up with less than flattering nicknames for those not performing at their best.
Cricket Nicknames Based on Puns or Wordplay
Many nicknames in cricket are based around a play on the individual’s name such England’s Alastair “Chef” Cook and John “Creepy” Crawley. Australia’s Mark Waugh was in the shadow of his more famous brother Steve to such an extent that jokers referred to him as “Afghan” – the forgotten war.
Bulky, but effective, South African all-rounder Brian McMillan became “Big Mac”, presumably for his height and not his eating habits whilst Australian opening bowler Jason Gillespie could only be known as “Dizzy” in tribute to the jazz trumpeter of the same surname.
English County cricket has turned up some good examples in recent years including the Tina Turner-inspired Matt “Steamy” Windows, Durham’s Cluedo-influenced Phil “Colonel” Mustard and a rather clever Alfred Hitchcock reference for Tim “Dial M” Murtagh.
The best example of this type of nickname must reside with Australia’s Brett Lee who, according to his personal website, was once below his older brother Shane and Ian Harvey in the batting order resulting in a line-up of Lee, Harvey and “Oswald”.
World Cricket Player Nicknames – Player’s Appearance or Social Background
Nicknames based on a player’s appearance are common. A youthful Robin Smith arrived at Hampshire with hair so bushy it resembled a legal wig so he was immediately christened “Judge”. Also at Hampshire the young Shaun Udal was nicknamed “Shaggy” for his alleged resemblance to Scooby Doo’s best friend. Over the years the name survived although unfortunately for Shaun the hair did not.
Australia’s vertically challenged batsman David Boon became known as the “Keg on Legs” though not so much for his diminutive, but rounded, stature as for his holding of the beer drinking record on the flight from Sydney to London for the 1989 Ashes (For the record – 52 cans). In contrast to Boon enormously tall New Zealand batsman Peter Fulton could only be known as “Two Metre Peter”.
Social background and aristocratic bearing has an influence too with England’s Ted Dexter and Andrew Strauss being affectionately known as “Lord Ted “and “Lord Brocket” respectively for their public school educations, whilst somewhat less affectionately India’s Sourav Ganguly was nicknamed “Lord Snooty” by those not enamoured with his captaincy style.
Cricketer Nicknames Based on Skills and Style
Some players are just so good that their skill becomes the origin of their nickname although unfortunately for some others the reverse applies. Derek Randall was such an effective fielder in the covers that he was nicknamed “Arkle” after a racehorse. Edwardian batting genius Gilbert Jessop was known as “The Croucher” from his low batting stance whilst Pakistani one-day phenomenon Shahid Afridi was labelled “Boom Boom” by commentator Ravi Shastri after a particularly ferocious display of hitting.
Rahul Dravid and England’s Trevor Bailey were known as “The Wall” and “Barnacle” respectively as both were impossible to get out, whilst New Zealand bowler Gavin Larsen became “The Postman” – not because he was always on strike but because he always delivered.
On the down side India’s Ajit Agarkar became known as “The Bombay Duck” following a run of 7 noughts against Australia whilst the somewhat dour batting style of 1920’s England batsman J.W.H.T Douglas led Australians to wonder whether the initials stood for “Johnny Won’t Hit Today”.
The last word on unusual skills must go to England slow left-armer Phil Tufnell whose nickname “The Cat” did not evolve from any on-field feline movement as much as his seemingly effortless ability to fall asleep in the dressing room.
The Best Nicknames in World Cricket
The best nicknames in cricket define a player completely and as such one fast bowler stands out. The name given by umpires to West Indian pace legend Michael Holding is so good because it is wonderfully descriptive of his fast, quiet and menacing approach to the wicket and the subsequent mayhem – “Whispering Death”.
The most bizarre nickname must remain with England spinner Ashley Giles whose benefit year at his county Warwickshire in 2000 was to be partly celebrated by the sale of a commemorative mug bearing the words “Ashley Giles – King of Spin”. Unfortunately the first batch to arrive at the club shop provided a new nickname for “Gilo” as they were unwrapped to reveal “Ashley Giles – King of Spain”.