Relegation from Division One of the LV= County Championship on the final day of the season rounded off a desperately disappointing season for Sussex. Sussex could manage only four Championship wins in 2015 as injuries and underperformance took their toll.
The Royal London One-Day Cup proved a humiliating affair for the club, with Sussex finishing rockbottom of Group B, their only points coming from abandoned matches. A second place finish in the South Group of the NatWest t20 Blast provided some cheer, although this only lead to a crushing quarter-final defeat.
Opening their Championship campaign with two victories, Sussex would have had high hopes for the rest of the season. Injuries to fast bowlers soon mounted up, however, and Sussex managed only one win from their next eleven matches, and only two more in total.
It was left to veteran overseas player Steve Magoffin and, in his debut season, 21 year-old Ollie Robinson to carry the seam attack, which they did admirably with 69 and 46 wickets respectively. But with their new-ball pairing lacking support, Sussex struggled to compete against better-resourced sides.
Sussex’s cause was not helped by disappointing seasons for a number of key batsmen. Most notable amongst these was Ed Joyce, who, after a stellar campaign in 2014, could only average 31.44 this season. The captaincy during a difficult campaign clearly took its toll on the Irishman’s batting, prompting Joyce to hand over the reigns to Luke Wright for 2016.
Wright topped the Championship averages for Sussex, his 1,210 runs placing him fourth overall on the Division One run-scoring list. He was ably supported by wicketkeeper Ben Brown who also topped a thousand runs and was particularly impressive in rescuing Sussex from some dire positions and in marshalling the tail.
As the season drew to a close, Sussex put up a decent fight in maintaining their Division One status, with Mike Yardy discovering a rich vein of form after announcing his retirement and Chris Jordan returning from injury.
They fell agonisingly – and as it would turn out, crucially – short of a successful fourth-innings run chase against eventual runners-up Middlesex at Lord’s, then secured draws at home to Yorkshire and Somerset and winning away at Worcestershire so that their destiny was in their hands for the return trip to Headingley. Defeat against the Champions, however, sealed their fate as they finished three points short of safety.
It was Sussex’s away form that ensured qualification from the South Group of the t20 Blast. Winning five of their seven games on the road and losing just once saw Sussex finish second and secure a home quarter final against Northants. In hindsight, they might have preferred a trip away, as they were blown away at Hove by a 40-ball David Willey century.
Tymal Mills, largely limited to white-ball cricket in 2015 by a chronic back complaint, was Sussex’s stand-out performer with the ball in the Blast, with 19 wickets at 18.84. Luke Wright again led the way with the bat, scoring close to 600 runs at an average of 51.27 and at an obscene strike-rate of 171.95.
The less said about Sussex’s performance in the One-Day Cup, the better. Winless, a leading-wicket taker with a grand total of four scalps and a top-run scorer in George Bailey whose 264 runs put him 32nd in the competition overall ensured Sussex finished bottom of Group B. Given the side’s heavily depleted resources, it was perhaps understandable that any real effort to progress was sacrificed at the altar of attempting to stay up in the Championship and reach twenty20 Finals Day, with a number of key players rested during the tournament.
LVCC: 8th, Division One
t20 Blast: Quarter-finals (2nd, South Group)
RLODC: 9th, Group B
Leading run-scorer: Luke Wright – 2,000 runs
Leading wicket-taker: Steve Magoffin – 72 wickets
Win %: 28.21
Player of the season
Top-scorer for Sussex in both the Championship and t20 Blast and averaging over forty in all three formats, Luke Wright was one of the few Sussex batsmen to deliver. Highlights included a first-class career best 226 not out at New Road and an unbeaten 111 off 56 balls at Bristol in the Blast. It remains to be seen whether adding the the four-day and 50-over formats to his captaincy portfolio will impact upon his performances.
Sussex took a punt on Ollie Robinson, offering him a one-year contract for 2015, after Yorkshire had terminated his contract, citing ‘unprofessional actions’. The young-fast bowler did not let the club down. Thrust into regular first-team action as a result of Sussex’s mounting injury list, Robinson smashed a hundred from number nine on debut before forming an effective new-ball partnership with Steve Magoffin for the remainder of the season and taking 46 Championship wickets at under 25 runs apiece.
Could have done better
The stresses of captaincy clearly weighed heavily on the shoulders of Ed Joyce this season, with he himself admitting that “the job this year became more a burden than a challenge to be relished”. This was evident in his individual batting performances, with his average across the formats a fraction over thirty. Joyce will hope that undivided attention on his own game will see a return to form in 2016.
Need to work on
No amount of preparation can prevent a side losing players through injury, but the number of crocked Sussex bowlers in 2015 indicate fitness levels may need addressing.
With two of the club’s most esteemed home-grown talents, Mike Yardy and Matt Prior, retiring in 2015, attention now turns to the players coming through the ranks at Hove. For a club on a tight budget, a steady flow of quality players rising through the ranks is essential. A winless season for the Sussex Development XI in the Sussex Premier League suggests there is work to be done, although the selection of Matt Hobden and George Garton for this winter’s Potential England Performance Programme is a good sign for the future.
Tweet of the season
So happy for Mike Yardy scoring 100 in his last game for @SussexCCC. I was honoured to play with such a champion. He is a Sussex legend!
— Matt Prior (@MattPrior13) September 15, 2015
It’s difficult to find many positives from Sussex’s 2015 campaign. The batting performances of Wright and Brown, the bowling of Magoffin, Robinson and, in the shortest form, Tymal Mills and a reasonable twenty20 campaign aside, it has been a miserable year for the Hove faithful. Injuries played their part in the side’s poor fortunes, but an air of self-pity seemed to envelop the squad in the middle part of the season – a spirited fightback at the end of the Championship campaign coming too late to save Sussex from the drop.
The retirement of Yardy and Prior, and the release of Chris Liddle, Ashar Zaidi and Steffan Piolet should free up some funds for new signings as Sussex bid for an immediate return to Division One, although extra money will be limited after the loss of Chris Jordan’s England central contract and a reduction in the playing budget for 2016. 3/10