Warwickshire and Sussex, who meet in the championship opener at Edgbaston this week, have fought out many momentous matches over the years. In 1983, for example, when the Bears won a thriller despite the great Imran Khan taking "six for six off six paces."
When Sussex arrived at Edgbaston for a championship match in 1983 there was good news and bad news for the Bears.
The bad news was that Imran Khan was in the Sussex team. The better news was that, troubled by shin stress-fractures, the fast-bowling all-rounder was unlikely to bowl, certainly at anything like full throttle.
Sussex had a bit of chirp about them in that era, as you would have with Imran Khan and Garth Le Roux in the team, so it was lively.Paul Smith
It seemed that way when Warwickshire made a solid 300 for four declared in their first innings. Alvin Kallicharran struck 24 fours in a stylish 152 and Imran, called upon only as fourth change, delivered five overs of modest medium-pace for eight runs.
It was during Sussex’s reply that the game began to get lively. Top-scorer in the visitors’ 300 for seven declared was Imran who made a polished 94 despite receiving plenty of short stuff from Bears quicks Willie Hogg and 19-year-old Paul Smith.
“We peppered him a bit,” Smith recalls. “I hit him in the ribs, cracked him on the finger and then hit him on the forearm. When he got hit on the finger Willie Hogg chipped in a few well-chosen words from the boundary in front of the members’ stand. Sussex had a bit of chirp about them in that era, as you would have with Imran Khan and Garth Le Roux in the team, so it was lively.
“But we didn’t think Imran was going to bowl much, so we thought we’d let him have a few.”
Sounds reasonable enough. Trouble was, on this occasion, the opponent in question was unreasonable.
All went smoothly enough in the Bears’ second innings as they advanced to 156 for three with Kallicharran and Dennis Amiss past 50. But when Amiss fell lbw to Colin Wells, Sussex captain John Barclay decided to try a sixth bowler – Imran Khan whose dander was well and truly up after taking that peppering.
Forty-five minutes later the Bears were all out and Imran walked off Edgbaston with figures of 4.3-1-6-6, including a hat-trick. Five of his six wickets were bowled, the other lbw, a blistering burst of straight fast-bowling which proved that it’s never wise to wind up a world-class bowler – even one with dodgy shins.
“Imran came on off a short run and destroyed our lower order,” Smith said. “He took six for six off six paces, including a hat-trick. I was in the middle of the hat-trick.
“David Thorne went in before me and because we all wore the same white helmets Sussex thought it was me. Imran bowled Thorney so then I went in and Ian Gould shouted to Imran ‘this is him.’ I didn’t see the next ball. Then Chris Old got cleaned up for the hat-trick. It was amazing bowling, with all the strength coming from his shoulder, and just showed what can be done by a top-class bowler who knows his body and rhythm.”
Brian Lara was the best batsman I ever bowled to and I bowled to a lot of great players but Kalli came closest to Lara.Paul Smith
A twist still remained in the match, though, as it transpired that Imran’s brilliance was to come in a losing cause. Kallicharran’s second century of the match left Sussex needing 219 to win and, from 102 for two, they lost wickets regularly, mostly to Norman Gifford, who took 24-11-33-4, and Smith.
It came down to 23 required by last pair Chris Waller and a young number 11 called Dermot Reeve, in his first appearance at Edgbaston. Reeve soon fell lbw to Smith for a duck to leave Warwickshire victorious by 21 runs.
“Kalli batted brilliantly,” Smith said. “Brian Lara was the best batsman I ever bowled to and I bowled to a lot of great players but Kalli came closest to Lara.
“He scored well over half our runs in that game and then we bowled them out on the last day. I took the last wicket, Dermot lbw, which was nice because we’d been on the MCC groundstaff together. I took three in each innings in the match and Imran came up to me after the game and complimented me which was lovely.”
For Smith, some kind words, and a lesson, from the master. Having blitzed the Bears, the great Pakistan all-rounder then departed for Sussex’s last five championship games in which he bowled just eight nice, gentle overs. Best for an opponent, surely, to keep his dander down.