Kevin Innes © Getty Images
Kevin Innes © Getty Images

May 21, 2003. The start of the County Championship match between Sussex and Nottinghamshire that saw a 12th man score a century for the first time. Arunabha Sengupta looks back at the day which saw Kevin Innes take advantage of a curious new ECB regulation, notch up a hundred and put his feet up.

A twelfth man’s job is largely unenviable. He is the bloke who is in charge of the menial chores — carrying the drinks, bats and helmets, while performing occasional fielding duties as the privileged eleven are entrusted with the coveted roles of batting and bowling.

However, on one summer day of 2003 at Hosham, tables were turned and 12th man Kevin Innes enjoyed something even the amateurs had dreamed of during the early days of cricket — batting with gay abandon and then not requiring to field.

The quirky rule

It was a season which saw Sussex discover new, seldom used clauses in the rule-book and implement them with a flair alien to the world governed by MCC.

A week earlier, at Hove, they had switched on the floodlights to play on in cloudy gloom during their First-Class fixture against the visiting Zimbabweans.

And now, they latched on to the new ECB regulation. It allowed players released from England duty on the eve of Tests to replace nominated substitutes. So, even as James Kirtley made his way over from Lord’s, Innes entered the fray and started stroking the ball with glee.

On the morning of May 22, the Sussex fast-medium bowler Kirtley was informed that he would not be making his Test debut at Lord’s that morning. With James Anderson, Matthew Hoggard and Steve Harmison already in the side for the match against Zimbabwe, the selectors opted for Yorkshire’s Anthony McGrath — a decent batter with the ability to bowl a few overs as the fourth seamer. It later turned out to be an inspired choice — McGrath batted just under two-and-a-half hours to score 69 and captured 3 second innings wickets.

To return to our side of the story, on May 22, Kirtley left Lord’s a little after 11.15 to start on his journey to Horsham. By the time he reached, his substitute Innes was already at the wicket against Nottinghamshire — and having the time of his life.

Overnight 330 for 5, Sussex lost wicketkeeper Tim Ambrose at 378. Matt Prior, playing as a specialist batsman, was joined at the wicket by Innes the locum. A medium pacer not really known for his batting skills, Innes had nevertheless cracked two half centuries the previous season. Now, with this unexpected opportunity to bat in a match that he was not officially playing, he started to cart the bowling about with not a care in the world.

As Kevin Pietersen and Bilal Shafayat sent down innocuous overs, Prior blazed away, scoring 35 off the last 11 balls before lunch, going into the break at 133 not out with 15 fours and six sixes. Innes and he had added 157 off 27 overs in the morning.

Prior was caught at the fence immediately after resumption, but Innes continued on his merry way. Dropped on 45, he pulled with aplomb as the Notts bowlers showed a penchant for banging them in short. Alongside, he played Stuart MacGill will considerable ease and irreverence — in the end the leggie’s 50 overs produced three for 172.

When Innes swung Pietersen to the boundary to complete his maiden century he could hardly stop himself from grinning widely. Skipper Chris Adams declared as soon as this curious feat was achieved and Innes walked back unbeaten on 103. At 3.25, four hours after leaving Lord’s, Kirtley opened the bowling and the centurion watched from the comfort of the dressing room.

Later Innes said, “A few of the lads had told me yesterday that I could get a century and then put my feet up. I’d been thinking of playing golf, but it’s nice to go out to bat and then not have to field.”

The situation was incredible to say the least. The ECB computers did not have the option of considering more than 11 players in a side and credited the runs to Kirtley. At least one local paper did so as well. There was some hasty manual tinkering to the database tables.

What followed?

In response to the mammoth 619 posted by Sussex, Nottinghamshire rode an explosive 166 by Pietersen to reach 421. But, it was not enough to save the follow on. Mushtaq Ahmed proved far more effective than MacGill, picking up 12 wickets in the match. The second Notts innings was much shorter.

Sussex knocked off the few runs to win without losing a wicket.

Brief Scores:

Sussex 619 for 7 decl. (Richard Montgomerie 105, Tony Cottey 58, Tim Ambrose 55, Robin Martin-Jenkins 49, Matt Prior 133, Kevin Innes 103*) and 52 for no loss beat Nottinghamshire 421 (Guy Welton 50, Kevin Pietersen 166, Bilal Shafayat 71; Mushtaq Ahmed 6 for 163) and 247 (Darren Bicknell 61, Jason Gillian 44, Chris Read 42, Steve Elworthy 45; Mushtaq Ahmed 6 for 81) by 10 wickets.

(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)