Vitality Blast: Sussex have ingredients for Finals Day return
Sussex have made a welcome habit of reaching at least the quarter-finals of the T20 Blast in the past three seasons, and looking at the strength of the squad, that ought to be the case for a fourth year in a row, writes BBC Sussex’s Adrian Harms.
The past two seasons have seen Sussex’s interest end in the last eight, once through a magnificent innings by Worcestershire’s Moeen Ali, the other a desperately disappointing defeat to Lancashire last year. Chasing just 141 to win Sussex subsided from 45-2 to 95 all out, with only Luke Wright and Tymal Mills reaching double figures.
That should be a huge motivation for Sussex, as they should have reached finals day.
An explosive batting line-up containing the likes of Luke Wright, Phil Salt, David Wiese and Ravi Bopara ought to be strong enough to score enough runs to allow the bowlers to put sides under pressure.
Chris Jordan, who in the winter became England’s highest wicket taker in T20 cricket, will lead the attack alongside the fearsomely quick Tymal Mills, supplemented by David Wiese and the mystical spin of Rashid Khan. Khan’s appearances will be limited due to his involvement in the Pakistan Super League and his absence will place additional responsibility on the reliable leg spin of Will Beer.
Of the Championship side only all-rounders George Garton, who was leading wicket taker for Sussex in T20 last year, and Delray Rawlins are likely to start regularly, though Travis Head will also play a role depending on Khan’s availability.
Garton and Rawlins are also the outstanding fielders in the side, capable of saving runs and taking brilliant catches.
Both were left out of the game against Yorkshire in Leeds and they will benefit from the break to concentrate on Blast preparations.
One huge down side for Sussex this season is the departure of left-arm spinner Danny Briggs. The leading wicket-taker in domestic T20 cricket, Briggs has so often been Wright’s go to bowler and more often than not he has delivered. He is a also a magnificent fielder, saving countless runs in his favoured position at backward point, and a very handy lower-order batsman, who keeps his head in a crisis.
Sussex have a new coach with new ideas. James Kirtley won the T20 Blast as a player in 2009, the only time Sussex have won the competition, and he, along with skipper Wright, knows the magic of winning finals day at Edgbaston.
As ever competition in the Southern Group will be fierce, but with crowds returning to Hove, Sussex will be difficult to beat on their own turf, and a place in the last eight is well within their capabilities. From there it gets trickier, but with a side full of matchwinners Sussex could go very close.
Every ball of every game home and away of the T20 Blast will be broadcast by BBC Radio Sussex, online and via our DAB frequency. Let the action begin!