4/11/2018 0 Comments
By Jamie Ramage (@FamousStrauss)
Where? 1st Central County Ground, Hove, Brighton
Ins: Ishant Sharma (IND, 4th April - 4th June), Rashid Khan (AFG, first half of T20)
Outs: Steve Magoffin (Worcestershire), Chris Nash (Nottinghamshire), Ross Taylor (also Nottinghamshire)
Key Man: Jorfa Archer
Last Season: Championship (2nd Division): 4th, RLODC: 5th in south group, T20: 5th in south group
2018 Odds: Championship: 11/2, RLODC: 12/1, T20: 12/1
When both Chris Nash and Mark Davis left Sussex within a matter of days of each other it could quite easily have left many Sussex fans wondering what direction their team was headed. The era under Davis had largely been disappointing.
Those fears were eased however when Jason Gillespie was announced as the new coach. Gillespie is one of the most respected coaches in the game after he guided Yorkshire to back to back County Championships in 2014 & 2015. It came as a surprise to many as Gillespie’s future looked to be in his native Australia coaching in the Big Bash whilst many believed he would be the next Australia coach.
Things in the past month may have changed that certain destiny. Gillespie will be pleased to inherite a good crop of young Sussex seamers packed full of good potential and it is a bowling attack that has got the Sussex faithful excited, there is finally geniune competition for places.
Jofra Archer truly announced himself on the world stage with an exceptional Big Bash. It made many including the British press to ask just who this young all-rounder was, although it came as no surprise to those who have witnessed his hard-hitting approach to both batting and bowling at Hove.
George Garton a young left-arm fast bowler is held in high esteem within England circles. If anyone can help him perform to the best of his ability it is Gillespie. There is still a rawness to Garton that in the right hands can not only help Sussex to future honours but also aid his ability to represent England.
Stuart Whittingham, the Scotland international is another young bowler Sussex will look to use and along with Ollie Robinson, there are enough enthusiastic bowlers to use in rotation.
Chuck Ishant Sharma and Chris Jordan into the mix and it certainly does look like a well-balanced bowling unit.
The spin department will again rely on Danny Briggs and Will Bear in the LV County Championship and Royal London One Day Cup. With Luke Wells now fit enough to bowl and Delray Rawlins an allrounder who can bowl spin and Sussex’s battery of fast bowlers it is conceivable that a specialist spinner will be seen as a luxury in the four-day competition.
Rashid Khan is one of those truly inspiring signings for the Vitality Blast. The theme of this Sussex side is one of youth. That isn’t to say that Khan lacks experience, although how the Afghanistan international adapts to English conditions remains to be seen. That hasn’t stopped him becoming one of the best bowlers in the world in the shortest format of the game.
One of the biggest concerns is the batting line-up that without the familiar figure of Nash looks short of experience. Wells was the leading run-scorer in Division Two last year and much will depend on him replicating that form.
If pre-season form is anything to go by then this could be the year that Luke Wright regains the aura that made opposing attacks fear. Relentless T20 cricket and the slog of county cricket along with the burden of captaincy took a noticeable toll on Wright who took a rest after the Big Bash to recover from little niggles that have stopped him from performing at his best.
It will be a big year for a number of batsmen who can establish themselves in the first-team. This year you feel is the year that Harry Finch finally establishes himself in the top order, he is highly thought of amongst the Sussex coaching staff but has yet to fully cement his place in the side.
The same could be said for Phil Salt and with Nash no longer around one of these two will be given every opportunity to become a fixture in the Sussex side for years to come. Tom Haines who has impressed in the second XI will be given the chance to add to his two first-class appearances.
The two South African Kolpack players Stiaan van Zyl and David Wiese add experience to the middle-order, and with Michael Burgess breaking through the middle-order looks in good shape. Burgess will also act as the backup wicketkeeper to Ben Brown who has been made club captain.
Brown has played many important innings for Sussex in the last few years aided by a lower-order that has been able to rescue early batting collapses. Ever since Sussex were relegated to Division Two of the Championship they have faced some of the most competitive seasons of the division.
The strength of that was proven when Essex ran away with the Championship last year, in their first season in the top flight.
This year is no different. Middlesex and Warwickshire have experienced and talented squads that should both be looking to bounce straight back. Middlesex have retained the majority of the side that won the County Championship only the year before their relegation, whilst Warwickshire have players like Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott who should take the second tier by storm.
If Gillespie gets the undoubted talent firing, then there is no reason why Sussex can’t push the favourites close.
Hove is one of those venues that really embraces the T20 Blast to the maximum, and Sussex have the match winners in that format and with the signing of Khan they are going to be a tough team to beat in that format.
The Royal London One Day Cup is the competition where the biggest inconsistencies can be exposed, or with a young side that has a licence to go out and take the game to the opposition.
While it is still unclear just how good this side can be it will be certainly fun to watch. There is an air of optimism back amongst the Sussex faithful that this could truly be one of the best seasons on the south coast in quite a while.
County Championship: 2nd
RLODC: group stage
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