Championship cricket returns to Hove on Friday as Sussex host Gloucestershire in their first home match of the season. Both sides sit on 21 points after two games and a win for either will turn an average start to the year, into a very good one.
Sussex have had to settle for two draws so far. A good performance at Edgbaston was unfortunately hampered due to rain, while their game against Leicestershire was dominated by the bat, with neither side grabbing the advantage at any point in the game.
Despite not winning yet this year, there are plenty of positives for Jason Gillespie’s men who still remain one of the favourites for promotion. Both Michael Burgess and Luke Wells scored centuries in their last game and former captain Luke Wright seemed to play his way into some form with 88.
The visitor’s path to 21 points has been far different. A victory at Kent on a wicket which was particularly difficult to bat on was followed up by an excruciating loss to Glamorgan. Having been five down at the close on day three, the Gloucestershire lower order, marshalled well by centurion James Bracey, almost secured a draw, but ultimately there was too much to do and they fell to a six wicket defeat.
Scrutiny will be on their top order, who were five down with less than 90 on board twice against Glamorgan. There will especially be concern around the form of captain Chris Dent, who has yet to register a meaningful contribution in four innings so far.
He made all the headlines for his batting against Leicestershire but for Ishant Sharma eight wickets in two games represents a reasonable start for a man who was signed for his bowling prowess. The Indian who has taken 234 Test wickets will make his home Championship debut on Friday and will be looking for a big performance to try and help his team win for the first time this year. While the overcast conditions should suit all the bowlers on show, the Indian’s extra bit of quality will make him a handful to a Gloucestershire top order that has struggled for consistency this year.
The signing of Ryan Higgins looked to be a good piece of business from Gloucestershire at the back end of 2017 and the former Middlesex man has proved to be a more-than-useful addition for Richard Dawson’s men. His maiden five-wicket haul in first-class cricket helped his team to victory over Kent and he impressed with the bat against Glamorgan – scoring a career-best 61 in the second innings. The all-rounder left Middlesex to get more opportunities in the Championship and he has more than proved his worth so far. Higgins has arguably been Gloucestershire’s standout performer in their two games and his side will be looking for another meaningful contribution from him here.
Sussex have made one change from the draw against Leicestershire. Danny Briggs comes into the squad following his knee injury. He replaces Will Beer who has been left out as precaution due to soreness in his side.
Sussex Squad: Ben Brown (c/wk), Danny Briggs, Michael Burgess, Harry Finch, Ollie Robinson, Phil Salt, Ishant Sharma, Stiaan Van Zyl, Luke Wells, Stuart Whittingham, David Wiese, Luke Wright
Liam Norwell was injured during the defeat to Glamorgan and hasn’t recovered in time for Gloucestershire so Craig Miles, who featured in the away sides opening game against Kent, should come into the team. Otherwise, it will likely be an unchanged XI, though both George Hankins and Chris Liddle will travel with the squad.
Gloucestershire Squad: Chris Dent (c), James Bracey, George Hankins, Ryan Higgins, Benny Howell, Chris Liddle, Craig Miles, Kieran Noema-Barnett, Craig Miles, Gareth Roderick (wk), Jack Taylor, Matt Taylor, Graeme Van Buuren, Dan Worrall.
Weather and Conditions
Last week seemed to signal the arrival of the British summer, county grounds across the country were baked with sunshine. Unfortunately for Sussex and Gloucestershire this isn’t likely to continue. The first two days should at least be dry, however the heavy rain scheduled for Sunday and Monday mean a result looks unlikely.
Date: 27th-30rd April 2018
Ground: The 1st Central County Ground
Odds (SkyBet): Sussex 4/7, Gloucestershire 11/8