When glancing around the fixtures for this final round of County Championship matches before the One-Day Cup swings into action, the clash between Kent and Sussex ought to stand out.
These two were in the conversation when tipping promoted sides at the start of the season and they’ve gone about it in excellent fashion so far.
Sussex find themselves second in the table, four points adrift of Warwickshire and ten points clear of this week’s opponents Kent – though both those sides have played a game fewer than Sussex.
Jason Gillespie’s side picked up their first victory under his leadership last week with an impressive three-wicket win over Middlesex. Captain Ben Brown’s unbeaten 65 guided them to the win against a team many felt would walk away with the Division Two title.
It was a win set up by the exploits of seamer Ollie Robinson, who claimed seven wickets in the first innings. To find themselves second in the table at this stage will no doubt delight Gillespie and it gives Sussex a good platform to build on heading into their fifth match.
Kent have their own star seamer in Matt Henry. He continued his fantastic form with eight wickets in the match in a six-wicket win over Glamorgan. 42-year-old Darren Stevens is also still proving that age is just a number by also taking eight wickets – including six in the first innings.
Two wins and one defeat from their opening three games is a solid return for Kent, who can steal a march on Sussex this week with a home win, bearing in mind they have played one game less.
One area of concern for the Canterbury side is their lack of runs thus far. Their highest Championship score of the season came in the second innings against Glamorgan – 195-4.
Admittedly they have batted last and therefore have chased down low targets, but they will hope to rack up a bigger total this week to ease some of the burden on that bowling unit.
It’s very difficult to look past one man as Kent’s key performer. That man is, of course, Matt Henry. The New Zealand Test seamer has made a superb start to the season with Kent and is the leading wicket-taker across both Divisions of the County Championship.
His 27 wickets have been taken at a phenomenal average of just 8.63 and he’s lead his side to their strong position in the early table. If he continues with that form this week, it will be a tough assignment for the Sussex batsmen.
Ben Brown’s captain’s knock last week in victory over Middlesex was crucial in guiding his side to that win. But his form over the season thus far has been excellent. Three half-centuries from his four matches played will attest to that, and Brown is averaging over 50 – which is a very impressive figure for someone batting at number six.
His runs late in the order have been pivotal for Sussex, who will look to their captain to produce similar form at Canterbury this week.
Kent are likely to be unchanged from that victory over Glamorgan, with top-scorer Heino Kuhn set to continue at the top.
Kent Squad: Joe Denly (c), Daniel Bell-Drummond, Alex Blake, Sean Dickson, Heino Kuhn, Zak Crawley, Darren Stevens, Calum Haggett, Adam Rouse (wk), Matt Henry, Harry Podmore, Ivan Thomas, Adam Riley
India seamer Ishant Sharma has recovered from a shoulder injury and returns to the squad in place of Stuart Whittingham. Harry Finch will look to build on notching his first Championship century against Middlesex.
Sussex Squad: Ben Brown (c/wk), Danny Briggs, Michael Burgess, George Garton, Harry Finch, Ollie Robinson, Abi Sakande, Phil Salt, Ishant Sharma, Stiaan van Zyl, David Wiese, Luke Wells, Luke Wright
Weather and Conditions
Saturday afternoon cut be cut short by a bit of rain but the rest of the match looks dry and reasonably sunny. Canterbury tends to offer some assistance to the seamers, especially with the new ball.
Date: 11th – 14th May 2018
Ground: The Spitfire Ground, St Lawrence, Canterbury
Odds (SkyBet): Kent 1/1 , Sussex 4/5