When Sussex step out against Somerset at Edgbaston on Saturday, in the second Vitality Blast semi-final, it will be their first appearance at Finals Day since 2012; and should they get to the final and win, it will be their first success in the T20 tournament since 2009.
Those favouring other counties will say that Sussex only finished third in the South Group, winning no more than half of their 14 games. But that only tells part of the story. They had as many as four no-result games. The extent to which they were unlucky with the weather in such a hot summer is illustrated by the fact that, in the whole of the North Group, there were just three no-result games.
Maybe the weather is not so grim up North or so endlessly sunny down South.
Sussex fans will point out that the team came through strongly under pressure, winning their last three Group games to ensure qualification. They then comprehensively dispatched Durham away from home in the quarterfinal, winning by five wickets with ten balls to spare.
The Sharks have plenty of effective batting, led by Laurie Evans who has scored over 550 runs in the competition at an outlandish average of nearly 80. But it is the bowling attack that strikes fear into opposition teams.
Whilst there is still a place in T20 cricket for the dibbly-dobbly medium pacers, increasingly the formula for success is tricky spin and extreme pace; and this is where Sussex are strongest.
For sure, there will be no Rashid Khan at Finals Day. He departed after 11 games having taken 17 wickets at 14.35 apiece. But this has allowed leg-spinner Will Beer, a survivor of Sussex’s 2009 success, to return to the fray and form a spin partnership with the reliable Danny Briggs who has claimed 15 wickets.
While Beer and Briggs supply the spin, the pace comes from Jofra Archer and Tymal Mills who have between them taken 24 wickets in the tournament so far. Each of them is capable of ripping out top order batsmen, and converting an opposition innings from a run-fest to a battle for survival.
And then there is Chris Jordan and David Wiese, who are far from negligible support bowlers.
No weak teams get as far as Finals day, but Sussex look to have most of the ingredients for success. If they can find that vital last recipe item, a small seasoning of luck, the Sharks might just lift the Trophy come Saturday evening.
Player of the Tournament
Someone said of sharks that it’s not the ones you see that you have to worry about; it’s the ones you don’t see. So I am tempted to say that the Sharks’ man of the tournament is the man behind the scenes, head coach Jason Gillespie, who has masterminded the Sussex campaign.
If, however, I have to choose a player, then the Sharks are fortunate to have in their team a batsman who has already claimed the man-of-the-match award in a T20 Final. Step forward Laurie Evans, who gained that accolade when playing for the victorious Birmingham Bears back in 2014.
Evans took his total runs in this year’s tournament over the 550 mark when he scored a match-winning 63 off 47 balls in the quarterfinal at Chester-le-Street. Never short of confidence, he is clearly a man for the big occasion and will no doubt revel in his return to Edgbaston.
Road to Finals Day
Third in the South Group, the Sharks defeated Durham in the quarterfinal.
View from the stands
Sussex supporter Ric Piper: “Few sides fancy playing against Sussex’s formidable seam attack. Not too many have ever bowled faster at Hove than Jofra Archer and Tymal Mills, backed up by Chris Jordan and David Wiese.
“As for the batsmen, when captain Luke Wright scores big, Sussex win. Young Phil Salt is already a crowd favourite and Laurie Evans (averaging 79, 2nd best in the country) is a having a wonderful season. Wicketkeeper Michael Burgess is a good for contributing runs as well.”
Date: Saturday 15 September
Time: 2.30 pm
Ground: Edgbaston Stadium
Odds: Sussex 10/11; Somerset 10/11