Sussex will be looking to recover from a poor 2015 season, which saw them narrowly relegated from the County Championship’s elite and finish bottom of their group in the Royal London One Day Cup. 2016 promises to be a transitional season with coach Mark Robinson having departed to lead the England Women’s team, and stalwart former Captain Michael Yardy having retired.
Ed Joyce has decided to step down from the captaincy following the team’s Championship relegation and Luke Wright will now captain the county in all three formats. County legend Murray Goodwin has joined the coaching staff as a batting coach, and another former player Mark Davis has replaced Robinson.
Sussex will, however, be able to call on an experienced bowling attack. Chris Jordan is an asset in all forms of the game, when not on England duty, and newly England qualified Steve Magoffin will be looking to add to the 267 first class wickets he has taken in his four years at Sussex to date.
Former England seamer Ajmal Shezad and Tymal Mills, with his raw pace, will both be looking to make an impression after their 2015 seasons were blighted by injuries. Ollie Robinson, after his breakthrough 2015 season, is another impressive seamer on the County’s books.
Tragically Sussex will not be able to call on another promising young seamer, Matthew Hobden, after his untimely death over the winter.
Overseas signing Mustafizur Rahman will be a huge asset in the T20 Blast, as should be Danny Briggs, signed from Hampshire. Briggs could also prove crucial in Championship cricket, by giving Sussex’s seamers a chance to rest and adding a genuine spin threat to the county’s attack.
Sussex’s batting will largely influence whether 2016 is as disappointing a year for the county as 2015. Ed Joyce, after a poor season by his high standards, will hope that being freed of the burden of captaincy will improve his form, while Luke Wright will hope to continue his impressive red ball form of last summer.
The capture of Ross Taylor for the first half of the season should add runs and class to the Sussex top order, and his hitting will aide the county’s attempts to reverse last year’s disappointing 50 over campaign. Ben Brown, having cemented his place as Sussex’s first choice wicket keeper last summer, will be looking to make 1,000 runs in the Championship once again.
Ins: Danny Briggs (Hampshire)
Outs: Michael Yardy (retired), Steffan Piolet (retired), Chris Liddle (Gloucestershire), Ashar Zaidi (Essex), Matthew Hobden (deceased)
Luke Wright will be crucial for Sussex’s chances of success. Now seemingly out of the England frame, despite an impressive stint in the Big Bash over the winter, Wright will be keen to stamp his mark on the county game. While his bowling has never quite hit the heights it promised when he was one of a number of young county pros destined to be ‘the next Botham’, he remains one of the most destructive batsmen in the English game.
While his white ball pedigree has never been in doubt, Wright will be looking to build on a successful 2015 in Championship cricket where he scored over a thousand runs at an average of 46.92; demonstrating his growing maturity and patience as a cricketer. If Sussex are to progress out of their 20/20 group they will need Wright to fire, particularly given the fact that Hove’s small dimensions are conducive to big scores.
As captain in all three formats for the first time, how Wright’s batting copes with the added pressure could be instrumental to the success of Sussex’s season.
Player to Watch
Ollie Robinson had strong debut season in 2015, where he secured a first team place in first class and limited overs cricket and also won Sussex’s Player of the Year. A quick, capable bowler and a batsman able to up the run rate lower down the innings, he should be a key component of any Sussex successes this season.
While his batting wasn’t able to hit the heights of his county debut, he did provide useful runs down the order. It is Robinson’s bowling, though, that should prove his biggest contribution to Sussex’s campaign. He took 46 wickets in Championship cricket last year and should be able to beat that in Division Two this time around. He also took wickets in 20/20 and if his bowling continues to develop, he could help Sussex enjoy a successful season and secure a quick return back to the top table of first class cricket in England.
The signing of Bangladeshi quick, Mustafizur Rahman, for 20/20 cricket could prove a huge coup for the club, given his strong showing in the ICC World T20 this year. A bowler of considerable skill, allied with the ability to bowl at speed, he should prove a match-winner. His ability to bamboozle the batsmen and take wickets will be especially important at Hove in restricting the opposition from running up big scores. Mustafizur may also feature in the back end of the 50 over tournament once Ross Taylor leaves.
Taylor, who will play the county in all three formats until the end of July, should prove a shrewd signing and bolster a Sussex batting line up that struggled as a whole in 2015. Once he leaves for international duty with New Zealand, the county may need to bring in another international batsman to ensure they don’t lose momentum.
How they’ll fare
There is little doubt that Sussex will be looking to challenge for promotion in what is not an especially strong Division Two of the County Championship. Ross Taylor will add international quality to a batting line up that already boosts players with international one-day experience in the form of Wright, Matt Machan and Ed Joyce. They will have one of the best bowling attacks in the division, with Briggs hopefully adding a new dimension to the impressive array of seamers the county has at its disposal.
Sussex should also continue their good 20/20 form and turn around their diffident 50 over form; Mustafizur could cause county batsmen plenty of problems, while Chris Jordan’s game will only improve from what he has learnt as England’s premier death bowler in the World T20. These two, together with the power and shot making abilities of Luke Wright and Ross Taylor in the shorter formats, should give Sussex a strong chance of escaping their groups in both limited overs competitions.
v Northamptonshire, Sunday 10th April at Wantage Road
Specsavers County Championship Division Two: 2/1
Natwest T20 Blast: 14/1
Royal London One Day Cup: 16/1