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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Robbie on April 8, 2013, 1:08 GMT

    Don't forget that Sussex will of course miss Matt Prior - a huge blow for a team not blessed with real adequate cover; I'm looking at you Ben Brown. Though having said that, if Brown can convert his promising 40s and 50s into hundreds then Sussex will be a formidable force in the Championship (I fully expect them to do their usual heroics in limited-overs cricket).

  • Mark on April 6, 2013, 15:54 GMT

    @Whatsgoinoffoutthere Unless it is a hot, dry summer, I cant really imagine raging turners even being physically possible, even if England were so inclined as to request them. I am also not sure how many groundsmen would be open to this kind of influence (most in England would be offended by the suggestion that they prepare pitches to order for Tests, although county cricket is another matter!).

    No, I think that Monty is safe. Unless Graeme Swann misses a est or Tests through injury Monty is likely to play a full summer for Sussex. Another thing is whether or not England would be suffiiently street-wise to prepare turners if they could.

    Monty is an interesting case: lethal in UAE and India, he was outbowled in New Zealand when the pitches required a little more subtlety and thought. It's a pity that he has never developed into the truly great Test spinner that he could have been. However, in county cricket is is still a massive asset for Sussex to have.

  • David on April 6, 2013, 9:12 GMT

    I saw Wells score a big hundred at Hove against Yorkshire - on one of our worst ever days! - but he spoiled himself by brattish behaviour when he was out. Involved in a mix-up with Murray Goodwin, he remonstrated for a long time before trudging off, then failed to acknowledge the crowd who had enjoyed his innings.

    Not very Cook-like in attitude here, then, but perhaps I saw him on the day his dog had died, and everyone's entitled to the odd fall from grace. I hope I just saw him on that one unfortunate day.

    We play Sussex first up. Hope they have a great season, after that. Friendliest of the Southron folk.

  • Rob on April 6, 2013, 1:36 GMT

    For a decade or more now Sussex have consistently been one of the stronger counties and the success that they have had has been fully deserved. Robinson is one of the best county coaches around (don't think he's international material though with all its added attention) Big seasons ahead for Wells, Yardy, Brown and Hamilton-Brown. A very well run county.

  • Ian on April 5, 2013, 17:00 GMT

    In contrast to their neighbours (Kent), Sussex have had lavish success over the last few seasons. Great for a county that, up to that point, had had only occasional success throughout their history.

    I can't help but think that their "unfashionable" tag did them no harm: plenty of their players could claim that similar performances at other counties would have placed them higher up the pecking order when it came to international honours. But people are watching now, and Sussex could well find themselves losing players for international duty, and see other prospects targeted by their rivals.

    Monty's absence over the summer is a real possibility: if England have taken a good look at Australia they'll see plenty of pace bowlers but little in the way of quality spinners. The Ashes defended on a series of raging Bunsens, with England fielding two spinners? Might work.

    One thing makes me laugh: the thought of Mark Robinson approaching one of his young charges with some batting advice :)