With Sussex missing out on promotion to Division One and being beaten in the final of the Vitality T20 Blast by Worcestershire last season, there will have been disappointment throughout Hove. However, with a County Championship restructure meaning that three teams will be promoted from Division Two, Sussex will have a better chance at promotion. Furthermore, Sussex’s squad has matured a lot since last season, with many going and plying their trade in global T20 leagues. Could this be the year that Sussex win the treble?
The last time a county won three trophies in one season was Gloucestershire in 2000 which shows how difficult it is for any county. However, the ECB county restructure which announced that Division One will contain 10 teams instead of nine means that that this season three teams will be promoted from Division Two. For Sussex, this is certainly the best opportunity to push for promotion after a poor run of form towards the end of last season ended their hopes.
With Sussex having a statistically higher chance of getting promoted will their squad be able to pull it off? So far, the only loss to the squad is Stuart Whittingham to Gloucestershire, who won’t be too much of a loss to a squad packed full of fast bowling talents such as George Garton, Ollie Robinson, and Abi Sakande. Sussex’s only first-class overseas signing was the acquisition of Pakistani fast bowler Mir Hamza. Whilst it may not be a necessary signing due to the depth of fast bowling talent at Sussex, he is still an excellent player to have. Hamza has taken 282 first-class wickets at an average of 18.34 and is known for swinging the ball which could be deadly in English conditions.
The biggest signing for Sussex is retaining the services of Rashid Khan for half of the T20 campaign. Rashid has gone from strength to strength since his original Sussex spell and is now regarded as one of the best bowlers in the world.Embed from Getty Images
The original squad is also packed full of a mix of experienced and young talent. In the batting department, Luke Wright will be at the fresh age of 34 before the start of the season. With nearly 7200 runs in T20 cricket as well as over 7600 in first class, he is certainly an asset to the team. He will combine with another experienced batsman in Luke Wells, a player who could be defined to be a “proper” cricketer with a strike rate of 45.23. Wicketkeeper Ben Brown, who was fifth top run scorer last season in Division Two is also another crucial component in the middle order, a player who will balance and add stability to a batting lineup that contains a lot of attacking cricketers.
Sussex are known for producing young, talented players and the batting department contains many. Delray Rawlins, Tom Haines, Phil Salt, Michael Burgess, and Harry Finch are the batting youth that the Sussex squad contains. Salt has had a dramatic rise of late from playing in the T20 Blast and only averaging 25 to playing for Islamabad United in the Pakistan Super League.
The county also has plenty of bowling talent in the squad. The aforementioned Garton, Robinson, and Sakande are solid fast bowlers and add depth to a key position. Garton especially has caught the eye of England selectors with him being called up to the 2018 Ashes in Australia. Furthermore, the county has two solid spinners of Will Beer and eight timed capped England player Danny Briggs. Briggs showed his worth in last years T20 Blast, taking 18 wickets at an average of just 18.83.
However, there are three main bowlers that feature for Sussex that make their attack so deadly. Jofra Archer, the man who has made a meteoric rise from his debut in 2016. Since then, he has played in the Indian Premier League, Big Bash League, and Pakistani Super League and is now on the verge of an England World Cup call-up. Another England T20 regular Chris Jordan remains in the Sussex ranks since his arrival from Surrey in 2013 and was heavily involved in their T20 campaign last season. Finally, T20 journeyman Tymal Mills is a deadly short form bowler. After being diagnosed with a congenital back condition which prevented him from bowling long spells in red-ball cricket, Mills turned his attention to T20 cricket and soon became unstoppable in the format with his 90mph yorkers.Embed from Getty Images
As well as English players and overseas, Sussex have a couple of handy Kolpak players too. South African pairing Stiaan van Zyl and David Wiese have become very useful editions to the squad with both playing in all three formats. Wiese, an all-rounder with a big-hitting ability more suited to the shorter form of the game with his bowling coming into play too. Whereas, van Zyl is a previous Test opener for South Africa so he can grind out results where needed, along with that he can also chip in with wickets with his medium pace.
It is clear that Sussex have the squad to complete a monumental task but it is a lot more than the players that achieve the kind of results they were getting last season. Head Coach, Jason Gillespie has modelled the same style of T20 cricket within Sussex as he did with Adelaide Strikers. As well as being a very experienced international player, taking 402 wickets in 169 appearances in all three formats for Australia he is also a very experienced coach and so the squad are in safe hands.
However, with the additional promotion spot up for grabs this year, all nine teams will be pushing for promotion harder than ever. So how does Sussex squad compare to their opponents?
The two relegated clubs, Lancashire and Worcestershire will look to bounce back after disappointing seasons in Division One and will most likely be the biggest threats to Sussex’s promotion campaign.
Lancashire have a squad full of England stars such as Jos Buttler and James Anderson, which will pose a difficult start to the season when they are available. Furthermore, they have two incredible overseas signings in Joe Burns and Glenn Maxwell who are far above the quality of players in Division Two. However, with the loss of Jordan Clark to Surrey, an all-rounder is desperately needed.
Worcestershire finished bottom of Division One and have lost star player Joe Clarke to Nottinghamshire. However, signings of Riki Wessels and a fantastic Kolpak acquisition of Wayne Parnell may prove vital if they are to bounce back immediately.
Derbyshire have also felt the effect of Nottinghamshire’s raid of quality Division Two players as they lost opener, Ben Slater. After the signing of a relatively unknown overseas player Logan van Beek, it could be a tough season for Derbyshire.
After being relegated to Division Two and starting on minus points due to financial issues, Durham start a completely fresh season looking to challenge again. England regulars Ben Stokes and Mark Wood will be big threats when available and new signings Alex Lees and Ben Raine are great additions to a squad weakened by transfers. Furthermore, the capture of sandpaper scapegoat Cameron Bancroft is a great overseas signing. Additionally, the new coaching staff of Marcus North and James Franklin make Durham a real threat this season.
Glamorgan always seem to be the whipping boys of county cricket with weak batting depth. However, the signing of Billy Root from Nottinghamshire may just be the boost they need. Along with the return of Shaun Marsh, Glamorgan may have a few tricks up their sleeves yet.
Gloucestershire have had most of their bowling talent raided by promoted Warwickshire and so the acquisition of Whittingham from Sussex makes sense. But a weak batting line-up, as well as no overseas batsman, has meant that they do not look like challenging for promotion.Embed from Getty Images
Leicestershire have been rejuvenated by the signing of overseas player Mohammad Abbas and had a moderately successful 2018 season. Furthermore, the signings of Chris Wright, Will Davis, and Aaron Lilley have added some key depth. However, the top order still needs work, but it is looking a lot better than in previous years.
Middlesex may have signed AB de Villiers for the T20 Blast but their County Championship chances don’t look the greatest. The man who won them so many games last campaign James Fuller has left for Hampshire and despite a desperately needed coaching reshuffle it looks like Middlesex may be focusing more on T20 cricket rather than promotion.
Northamptonshire have made some amazing overseas signings for this campaign and they could carry them to their first ever promotion. Despite the departure of Ben Duckett, Northants have filled his position temporarily with Temba Bavuma, the exciting South African batsman. Jason Holder showed how good he is against England and may be very useful in English conditions. The Kolpak signing of Blessing Muzarabani is also a promising addition. However, an over-reliance on the overseas players may prove costly if they do not come off.
Overall, it seems that although it may be a tough ask for Sussex to complete a treble it is certainly not impossible. However, a strong squad, as well as fantastic overseas stars, is going to prove very helpful. They will have to fight off a lot of competition for promotion, mainly from Durham, Lancashire, and Worcestershire.
Sub-edited by Tony Robertson