The BrightonandHoveJobs.com County Ground hosts its first 50-over cricket of the season on Thursday as the Sussex Sharks host the Nottinghamshire Outlaws in Group B of the Royal London One-Day Cup.
Like most sides, both Sussex and Nottinghamshire have endured a soggy start to the tournament, each losing one of their opening two fixtures to the rain that deluged much of the country last weekend. Prior to their abandoned game with Glamorgan, Nottinghamshire had got off to a flying start with a nine wicket thrashing of last year’s beaten finalists, Warwickshire. By contrast, Sussex followed their washout against Lancashire with a heavy defeat, falling 87 runs short of victory away to Hampshire.
As important as it is to get off to a good start, a solitary completed match apiece gives only limited insight into the outlook in the cup for these sides. The recently concluded group stage of the T20 Blast perhaps provides the most clues, particularly given the similar lifespan of a ball in both the shortest and shorter form of the game now that bowlers are provided with a new nut at each end in 50-over cricket. Sussex will be looking to transfer the form that saw them secure a home quarter-final in the Blast to the one-day format. Nottinghamshire, meanwhile, will be eager to put behind them an indifferent showing that saw the East Midlanders fail to progress from the North Group.
Given their elimination from the Blast and a position just about approaching safety in the Championship, the One-Day Cup may well be more of a priority for the Outlaws than it is for the Sharks. Sussex will be desperate to advance to Twenty20 Finals Day and are involved in a real battle to preserve their Division One status in the Championship and, whilst they would never admit it, they may see a third front as a campaign too far, especially given the extensive casualties they have sustained within the bowling ranks.
Last year’s corresponding fixture resulted in a comfortable win for Nottinghamshire thanks to runs at the top of the order for Michael Lumb and Alex Hales and an excellent all-round performance from Steven Mullaney. The outcome of this game rather mirrored the teams’s respective fortunes in the tournament as a whole; the Outlaws going onto reach the semi-finals, whereas the Sharks – displaying about as much bite as their Mick Fanning-harassing cousins in Jeffreys Bay (and proving a lot less threatening in the process) – finished second from bottom in their group.
A crucial difference between the sides last year was the respective ability of their batsmen to turn fifties into hundreds, with Nottinghamshire managing six centuries (four in the group stages) compared to Sussex’s one. James Taylor and Alex Hales were responsible for all of the Outlaws’s three figure scores, performances that saw them finish third and fifth in the tournament averages respectively. The Sharks’s leading batsman, Ed Joyce, ended up eighteenth in that list.
Yasir Arafat led an otherwise toothless Sharks bowling attack last year with 17 wickets taken at just over 18 runs each, but the Pakistani journeyman is now plying his trade along the South Coast with Hampshire. Next highest wicket-taker Lewis Hatchett (9 at 43.44), currently finds himself in the lengthy queue of bowlers waiting for a session with the Sussex physio. Sussex will be hoping their mix of youthful quicks, part-time spinners and on-loan Alfonso Thomas will provide a more potent attack this time around.
Nottinghamshire can still call on their leading wicket-taker from 2014, Luke Fletcher, with support in leading the attack from Harry Gurney and Australian all-rounder Dan Christian, whose five wickets in the match against Warwickshire set up the Outlaws’ resounding victory.
Building on his fine recent form in the Championship, Matt Machan made a promising start to the Sharks’s RLODC campaign with 93 off 102 balls during the side’s ultimately fruitless chase at the Rose Bowl, but skipper Ed Joyce’s performance is likely to play a big part in determining Sussex’s fortunes both in this fixture and in the competition as a whole. If he can convert starts into big scores, Joyce could be the figure around which his side build some match-winning totals. The Irishman has enjoyed significant personal success against Nottinghamshire in recent years, with two fifties and an unbeaten hundred in his last three List A innings against the side.
An obvious choice, but a 61-ball 103 for Alex Hales in the Outlaws’s thumping of Warwickshire last weekend underlines what a dangerous player he is in this form of the game. No doubt still riding the wave of positivity swelled by England’s ODI series win against New Zealand in which he contributed two rapid half-centuries at the top of the order, Hales has the ability to take the game away from teams, and fast. If that wasn’t a daunting enough prospect for Sussex’s bowlers, his last two one-day knocks versus the county brought him hundreds.
There is no room for Ashar Zaidi in the Sussex squad despite his 146 not out and 3-38 against Middlesex in the Second XI Trophy on Monday. Jimmy Anyon, Lewis Hatchett, Chris Jordan and Ajmal Shahzad are all still unavailable through injury and the squad is the same as that picked for the defeat to Hampshire. The final eleven will be subject to some late fitness tests, according to the club website.
Sussex Squad: Ed Joyce (captain), George Bailey, Will Beer, Craig Cachopa (wicketkeeper), Chris Liddle, Matt Machan, Tymal Mills, Chris Nash, Steffan Piolet, Ollie Robinson, Alfonso Thomas, Luke Wells, Luke Wright, Michael Yardy.
Nottinghamshire have announced an unchanged squad from their ‘Welbeck Weekender’ matches at Market Worsop. The Outlaws are likely to pick an unchanged eleven from the side selected for Sunday’s aborted fixture against Glamorgan.
Nottinghamshire Squad: James Taylor (captain), Jake Ball, Dan Christian, Luke Fletcher, Harry Gurney, Alex Hales, Brett Hutton, Michael Lumb, Steven Mullaney, Samit Patel, Chris Read (wicketkeeper), Brendan Taylor, Riki Wessels, Sam Wood
Weather and Conditions
Dry and bright during the day with clear skies in the evening.
Date: 30th July 2015
Ground: The BrightonandHoveJobs.com County Ground, Hove
Umpires: Ian Blackwell & Martin Saggers
Odds (SkyBet): Sussex 5/4, Nottinghamshire 8/5