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CRICKET: Horsham festival is back – come and support it!

Horsham have two plum fixtures for the annual festival starting on Monday July 21 when Sussex welcome Warwickshire for a 4 day LV= County Championship Division 1 game.

Then, on Sunday July 27 the Sharks entertain Nottinghamshire Outlaws in the opening round of the Royal London One Day Cup, local cricket supporters hoping to see Horsham’s Will Beer in action.

Club stalwart Barry Peay, long term festival manager says: “We work together with Sussex to erect the marquees and transform the ground to provide a special Horsham experience for players and spectators alike.”

Sussex usually do well at Horsham, winning both games last year. The pitch is conducive to attractive cricket, groundsman Jim Askew saying: “I’ve been getting good feedback about the wicket, the square’s fine and the strip should last well. When Sussex come it’s a big occasion at the club. This is my first festival and I’m really looking forward to it!”

Warwickshire first played at Horsham in 1926. Visiting last in 2004, they were captained by TV commentator Nick Knight – his Sky colleague Ian Ward made 160 for Sussex in a high scoring draw, Ian Bell racking up 262 and 62, both unbeaten.

Eleven years ago Nottinghamshire won the one day game easily, Kevin Pietersen scoring 39, following his 166 in the preceding championship match. With one championship game each to play before the festival Notts (flying high in the T20 Blast) head the table and Warwickshire are third with mercurial Sussex in mid division. Look out for Warwickshire’s Porterfield, Boyd Rankin, former Sussex keeper Tim Ambrose and, on the comeback trail, Jonathan Trott.

Notts are strong, with Alex Hales, James Taylor and mountainous death bowler Luke Fletcher impressing. Ed Joyce, Horsham’s Chris Nash and Luke Wright are certain to catch the eye of home supporters and this year former England wicketkeeper Jack Russell will be attending to display some of his outstanding artwork.

Lacking sponsorship, this year’s festival was in doubt until an anonymous benefactor stepped in, Sussex vice captain Chris Nash quipping: “After Steve Magoffin took 8-20 here last year the team think he’s the mystery man because he can’t wait to return!”

But, Sussex CEO Zac Toumazi says: “The whole question of out ground festival cricket is under review. It’s a challenge! It must be financially viable. It’s costly to bring everything up from Hove so we’ve got to work really hard on selling hospitality. Guildford is successful for Surrey and Scarborough for Yorkshire, supported by the Tourist Board and the council.” Jonathan Chowen, HDC Cabinet Member for Arts, Heritage & Leisure said: “It’s a prestigious event and we’d love it to continue.”

Sussex are deeply committed to continuing at Arundel – despite heavy criticism of the wicket by the visiting Yorkshire captain and the press. And, with council backing, Eastbourne are clamouring for the return of Sussex cricket. Horsham Chairman John Carter says: “Survival of our festival depends on sponsorship and good public support; we can accommodate hundreds of cars so we’re hoping for great crowds.”

The setting is lovely and there’s more to the festival than cricket, whether succumbing to delightful homemade cakes in the tea tent, sampling refreshment at the bar or just relishing a sociable stroll round the ground, a warm welcome beckons all at Horsham’s iconic club.

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