It was, above all, a frustrating season for Sussex; a summer to get their supporters to lean keenly forward in their seats in expectation, only to ultimately slump back in disappointment. Sussex performed well – in parts at least – in all three competitions, without putting together the consistency needed to progress beyond the group stages of the limited overs competitions or to achieve promotion from Division 2 of the Championship.
A point more would have been enough for a quarterfinal berth in both the One Day Cup and the T20 Blast, while Sussex’s 7 wins in the Championship were undermined by the 5 defeats. There was some bad luck, with the team’s last game in the One Day Cup being washed out when a win would have seen them through, but ultimately Sussex lost too many games across all formats.
Among the batting highlights were Luke Wells and Stiaan van Zyl both passing 1,000 runs in the Championship, while Chris Nash enjoyed an outstanding T20 Blast, scoring over 500 runs. Jofra Archer came to the fore with the ball, taking 61 Championship wickets, supported by Chris Jordan with 36.
Sussex’s overseas players were disappointing. Vernon Philander’s stay was blighted by injury, though he did contribute when he was able to play, while Ross Taylor had an awful T20 Blast, averaging below 20 despite being not out 3 times in 12 innings. Jerome Taylor also had a torrid time of it, averaging over 45 with the ball in the One Day Cup games he played.
Specsavers County Championship: 4th, Division Two
Natwest T20 Blast: 5th, South Group
Royal London One-Day Cup: 5th, South Group
SSCC: Luke Wells (1,292 runs)
T20 Blast: Chris Nash (520 runs)
One-Day Cup: Laurie Evans (289 runs)
SSCC: Jofra Archer (61 wickets)
T20 Blast: Chris Jordan (16 wickets)
One-Day Cup: David Wiese (11 wickets)
Player of the season:
While this could easily have gone to Jofra Archer, Luke Wells had an exceptional season in the First Class game scoring 1,292 runs, including 4 centuries and 4 fifties. His haul was particularly gratifying given that he faced a race to be fit for the season following knee surgery. The undoubted highlight was his 258 against Durham, his new First Class best, which included 32 off one over.
Wells’ growing standing within the team was also shown by him filling in as captain towards the end of the season and the fact he was offered a contract extension after the season ended. Another season like this, and given England’s current batting woes, it is perhaps not fanciful to suggest that he may follow his father Alan and become a Test cricketer.
While Jofra Archer had given notice of his talent last year, the 2017 season was the one where he imposed himself and become an automatic pick in all three formats. His pace and aggressive batting – he scored his runs at a strike rate of 144.83 in the One Day Cup -attracted attention whenever he played, and the numbers back up the fact he had an exceptional season.
He took 61 wickets in Division 2, the third most in the league, at an average of 25.30 and added 14 in the T20 Blast and 9 in the One Day Cup. He also scored 5 half centuries in the Championship and over 600 runs, demonstrating that he has potential to be a true all-rounder. Whether he tries to qualify for England, or decides to play for the West Indies, either team would be very lucky to have him.
Could have done better:
In some respects criticising Laurie Evans, in a season where he was the county’s leading run-scorer in the One Day Cup and third in the T20 Blast, may seem unfair. Particularly given his amazing innings against Kent in the One Day Cup where Sussex, chasing a score well in excess of 300, won thanks to his 134 not out off just 86 balls. There is no escaping Evans’ truly dreadful Championship season, however. Having moved to the South Coast in part due to play more First Class cricket, a return of 48 runs from 8 innings at an average of 6 was desperately disappointing for a player of his talent.
Need to work on:
Consistency. Sussex were unable to put enough results together to progress from either the Championship or to the quarterfinals of the limited overs competitions, despite some outstanding performances.
In the Championship Sussex all too often ended up with not enough runs, with only Stiaan van Zyl, Luke Wells and Jofra Archer averaging over 40 out of those who played more than 7 games. Chris Nash and Harry Finch both played over 10 Championship games as frontline batsmen and averaged under 30, while batsmen like Delray Rawlins and Laurie Evans were unable to take the opportunities they were given. This will need to be addressed if the team is to aim for promotion next season.
Sussex have the nucleus of a good team, but will need to improve if they are to avoid another solid but unspectacular season next year. Given the extremely limited impact of the overseas players this season, in part due to injury, Sussex should look to attract a player who will offer consistent performances across all three formats.
The lack of a premier spinner in Championship cricket will also need to be addressed, given the lack of opportunities that continue to be given to Will Beer and to Briggs’ poor returns in the format this season.
The batting also looks somewhat flaky, with Wells and van Zyl lacking support. The pace attack does look extremely strong, though, with Archer and Jordan leading it, and Robinson, Garton and Whittingham are all bowlers with significant potential, not forgetting Tymal Mills in the T20 Blast if he is fit.
A solid if unsatisfying season for Sussex: not too far off in the Championship, and close to progressing from their groups in the limited overs formats but fell short in each.