IT was the day the stars came out at Selsey – in a way Sir Patrick Moore would surely have appreciated.
Not only the stars – of international cricket, that is – but the sun too. It shone from dawn to dusk as the recreation ground became home for the day to players more used to plying their trade at Lord’s.
Selsey had never seen anything like it, and probably never will again. And the end result was not only a day the community will talk about for years to come but thousands of pounds raised for good causes, including the cricket club itself.
The visit of the Lashings All-Stars, a grand collection of past and present Test and one-day international players from home and abroad, took months of planning and one stage was in doubt because organisers were not selling enough tables for the marquee lunch that was the curtain-raiser to the cricket.
But Selsey and its people are not ones for giving up easily and sell those tables they did to ensure the likes of Gordon Greenidge, Herschelle Gibbs, Saqlain Mushtaq, John Lever, Owais Shah and others could visit and treat the locals to a memorable day.
Not surprisingly, Lashings won – and by some distance. Lashings batted first and the crowd of around 1,500 were treated to a superb display of hitting by opening pair Gibbs, the South African stalwart, and Pakistan powerhouse Abdul Razzaq.
You had to feel for the hard-working Selsey Comets bowlers and fielders as the openers each racked up a century in little more than an hour before retiring to let others have a go.
The Lashings innings ended with a past and present Hampshire show as West Indian great Greenidge and the county’s new signing Shah paired up to take the 30-over total to 304 for four.
With the likes of Sussex paceman Yasir Arafat, doosra king Saqlain and former England seamer Martin Bicknell at the other end, the Selsey batsmen were never likely to threaten that total. But they do deserve credit for sticking to their task and reaching 172 for seven.
The presentation of the Sir Patrick Moore Cup – created to celebrate not only the occasion but also Selsey’s 180th anniversary – to Lashings skipper and former England all-rounder Phil DeFreitas ended the competitive element to the day as West Sussex County Council leader Louise Goldsmith did the honours.
But there was much more to the day than the Lashings match itself – from the colts and ladies’ action staged in the morning, to the funfair rides put on for the kids, and the bars and food stands that did a healthy trade all day.
Commentary for much of the game was provided by BBC Test Match Special legend Henry Blofeld, whose first words on the mic were his favourites as he greeted the crowd with a “My dear old things...”
And then there was Sir Patrick, who loved the club and served them in so many roles for several decades.
Before play, an exhibition devoted to Sir Patrick’s life and love of cricket, taking the form of a re-creation of his study, was opened in the pavilion.
The driving force behind the event was Selsey CC’s Bob Hoare, who said he couldn’t thank everyone enough for contributing to its huge success.
“When I first organised it, I had my doubts and thought ‘what have I done?’. For the past six months we have had to overcome so many obstacles,” he said.
“The committee have all worked tirelessly to make it happen and I am so proud of them all. On the day there were so many very special people who gave up their time to make it a day to remember.
“It has been estimated we had up to 1,500 spectators and they should all be thanked.
“And what about the Selsey Comets? They were great and we were all proud of their contribution.
“It was one of the best days of my life. While I was umpiring, I looked around at the crowd and all the famous cricket faces... and I couldn’t quite believe it.”