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Tributes paid to Sussex cricket ‘legend’ Ralph Smithson
A veteran batsman who played cricket for his village club for 71 years has died aged 103.
Ralph Smithson, originally from Yorkshire, played his first match for Ditchling Cricket Club in 1929 – with his final knock in 2000.
He died at home in Clayton on Boxing Day last year, bringing a remarkable innings to an end.
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Friend and club committee member James Shillaker described him as a “legend” of the club.
He said: “He was a lovely man who served us for many years.
“He was a batsman who played competitively right into his 70s. He will be sadly missed by all of us.”
Born in Kingston, Yorkshire, in September 1910, he was brought up on the family farm. He moved to Ditchling in the summer of 1929 and within days of arriving, the then 18-year-old was approached by the village cricket club captain.
The next day he was padding up for his first match.
Affectionately known as the club’s “run machine” he played countless times across the following decades.
Mr Shillaker added: “Although I never saw him bat, I suspect in his gritty, single-minded determination (he was a Yorkshireman after all) and with his short stature, there was a little bit of the Bradman about him.
“He was certainly Ditchling’s very own run machine, providing the backbone to the team’s innings for several decades.”
Mr Smithson, who had two granddaughters and two great-grandchildren, also used to bowl and picked up five hat-tricks throughout his career – the last when he was 60.
As well as being first team captain, he held various roles including vice-president, treasurer and secretary across the years.
In August 2000 he took to the crease for a final time for a specially arranged match against London side Hares to mark his 70 years at the club.
Speaking to The Argus at the time, the then 89-year-old told how he only discovered his batting talent in later life.
He said: “I was like Jack Hobbs, because I scored more centuries after I was 40.”
His funeral will be held at Clayton Church on January 21 at 2.30pm. All are welcome.
The family have requested donations be made to the St Peter and St James Hospice in Lewes.
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