Two teams who experienced contrasting fortunes in their opening fixtures meet at The BrightonandHoveJobs.com County Ground this week, as Sussex play host to Worcestershire for the first time since 2012 in the County Championship.
Whilst Sussex underlined their dark horse credentials with a 92-run win over Hampshire, Worcestershire faded badly in their battle to upset champions Yorkshire, bowled out for 100 en route to a ten wicket defeat.
Championship titles may not be won in April, but they can certainly lay a strong foundation, and Sussex will certainly be eyeing this game as an opportunity to send out a message to their rivals.
There have been murmurings of the strongest bowling attack in the division across the country after their victory last week, and although other sides may dispute that claim fervently, certainly, their pace attack looks daunting, with the likes of Steve Magoffin, Tymal Mills, and Ajmal Shahzad steaming in at Hove.
Worcestershire coach Steve Rhodes praised the ‘Test match attack’ of Yorkshire, and there seems to be no let-up this week, testament to the strength of Division One. Despite a heavy defeat, Worcestershire will not panic; teams, equally, are not relegated in April, and they have been written off many times before.
There were certainly signs of promise in that ultimately crushing loss, notably the century of Tom Fell and a five-wicket haul from Gareth Andrew that marked a statement of intent after a fractured last couple of years. If they can piece together consistent cricket, there is sufficient quality within the ranks to prove the doubters wrong.
Timely runs and important wickets for Ajmal Shahzad ensured that his Championship debut for Sussex was a happy one, as the Yorkshire-born player contributed six wickets in a winning cause. There is no denying that Shahzad has great quality, but if he is to add to his single Test cap, it is likely that he needs to make his stay at Sussex, his fourth county already, a sustained and profitable one.
Youngster Tom Fell may have dug his top order out of a sizeable hole against Yorkshire last Sunday, but, as the second innings proved, that will not always be the case. You suspect that if Worcestershire are to be toasting survival come September, then captain Daryl Mitchell will have to recreate his form of 2014, in which he averaged 58 in the County Championship. Hove, against one of the best bowling attacks in the division, would be a fine place to start.
Sussex are likely to stick with the same side that recorded victory last week. James Anyon, Lewis Hatchett, and Matt Prior remain sidelined through injury. As of yet, there is no news as to when Prior will make his comeback from his achilles problem, with head coach Mark Robinson saying that the former England man is out ‘indefinitely’. Matt Machan replaces Michael Yardy (ill) in the only change in the squad.
Sussex squad: Ed Joyce (captain), Ben Brown (wicketkeeper), Craig Cachopa, Matthew Hobden, Matt Machan, Steve Magoffin, Tymal Mills, Chris Nash, Ajmal Shahzad, Luke Wells, Luke Wright, Ashar Zaidi
Moeen Ali is unavailable for Worcestershire, having flown out to the West Indies to join up with the Test party. In his place, Alexei Kervezee is likely to come in, with Tom Fell moved up to number three following his hundred last week. Joe Leach, the all-rounder, is also in the squad.
Worcestershire squad: Daryl Mitchell (captain), Richard Oliver, Tom Fell, Alex Gidman, Tom Kohler-Cadmore, Alexei Kervezee, Ben Cox (wicketkeeper), Gareth Andrew, Jack Shantry, Sachithra Senanayake, Charlie Morris, Joe Leach.
Weather and conditions
The fine weather is likely to continue into next week, although there could be some cloud cover early on Sunday. This is the first game at Hove this season, although both April fixtures at the same ground in 2014 ended comprehensively, with Sussex experiencing both victory and defeat by an innings.
Date: 19th – 22nd April 2015
Ground: The BrightonandHoveJobs.com County Ground, Hove
Umpires: Neil Bainton & Steve O’Shaughnessy
Odds (SkyBet): Sussex 2/7, Worcestershire 11/4