County previews April 5, 2013

Make do and mend brings Sussex benefits

Last year: 4th, CC Div 1; Semi-finals, T20; Semi-finals

2012 in a nutshell: Such has been the success at Sussex over recent years - they had won seven major trophies in the previous decade - disappointment over a season that finished without tangible reward was inevitable. But Sussex again pressed hard in the limited-overs formats and finished above many larger clubs in the Championship. They were in a bit of trouble after winning just one of their first seven Championship games, but then threatened a top three finish before losing the last two games to slip back into mid-table. They topped their group in both the CB40 and FLt20, but lost to Yorkshire in the T20 semi-final of the T20 and Hampshire in CB40. Steve Magoffin - with 57 Championship wicket at 20.05 apiece - led the bowling manfully, supported by the decidedly sharp Jimmy Anyon and the relentless Monty Panesar. Ed Joyce and Chris Nash led the way with the bat in the Championship, with Luke Wright - who made three CB40 centuries - exceptional in limited-overs cricket. Matt Prior and Scott Styris were both excellent in T20, with Michael Yardy back to his mean best with the ball. Murray Goodwin was released at the end of the season

2013 prospects: Sussex may not have the bowling depth to mount a sustained Championship challenge, but they remain a very dangerous limited-overs unit. In keeping with their reputation as a mender of broken players, they have brought in Rory Hamilton-Brown and Chris Jordan, two highly-talented cricketers who had lost their way a little at Surrey. Andrew Miller, a tall seamer who previously represented Warwickshire, has joined, too. But John Hastings has pulled out of his T20 contract through injury, Kirk Wernars has taken a year off to explore other career opportunities and Luke Wright will miss the start of the season on IPL duty. They will require more runs from Joe Gatting and Michael Yardy this year, while Ben Brown's wicketkeeping also remains a work in progress. But with the likes of Nash, one of the unsung heroes of English cricket, contributing with impressive consistency, they should have enough quality to avoid relegation. Off the pitch, the club continues to be particularly well run and understand its role in the wider game under a new chief executive, Zac Toumazi.

Key player: Monty Panesar. It's not just the wickets he takes, it is his ability to perform the role of stock bowler. Should he be required by England for lengthy portions of the summer, Sussex will have a huge hole to fill.

Bright young thing: Luke Wells is a batsman with a great deal going for him. Blessed with a similar temperament to Alastair Cook but, perhaps, more elegant, he seems to have the ideal game to step-up to Test cricket. A lack of limited-overs experience - he has only played one T20 and six List A games - cannot help, but this is a 22-year-old who could go a long way in the game.

Captain/coach: Ed Joyce, 34, probably takes on the captaincy at an ideal stage of his career; established, experienced and with little more to prove as a player, he will be able to dedicate his energy towards the role. Mark Robinson, the head coach, will continue to coax the best out of his eclectic squad with a calm and quiet wisdom that, in a shrill world, could easily be undervalued.

ESPNcricinfo verdict: Chris Adams described Sussex as the 'benchmark team' of the Championship; a description that makes sense: finish above them and you are challenging; finish below them and you are in trouble. They are likely to be very competitive in the limited-overs formats.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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