Sussex fans will probably reflect on the 2018 season as a case of what might have been. Third place in the Championship, just missing out on promotion and losing finalists in the Vitality Blast after being defeated by Worcestershire. A year that could have ended with two triumphs, ultimately came to nothing.
After a 243-run victory over Derbyshire, a fourth successive Championship win, promotion was well and truly on the cards. However three losses in their final five matches left Sussex 35 points adrift of second-placed Kent in the end, a disappointing way to finish the season.
The batting form was generally strong throughout the summer, with 32 batting bonus points added, the second highest in Division Two. However it disappeared at the wrong time as against Middlesex and Durham, Jason Gillespie’s side failed to post a score of over 200 in both innings and both games ended in defeat.
The weather did not help their cause either, early season matches against Warwickshire and Gloucestershire ended in draws, although both could have easily resulted in a Sussex win had there not been so much rain.
Though despite the disappointment of not being promoted, Sussex must take some credit for forging a campaign that saw them finish third.
Ben Brown captained the side excellently, while also finishing with 912 runs, the highest of any Sussex batsmen in Championship cricket.
The much lauded bowling line-up also produced some wonderful performances, Jofra Archer took 42 wickets in just eight matches but, more impressively, Ollie Robinson’s haul of 74 wickets was the most of any English-qualified bowler in the country.
That lauded bowling attack also took the Sharks to the brink of glory in the Blast. They were helped by Rashid Khan, who lived up to all the hype surrounding him, taking 17 wickets in the South Group.
Khan was not available for knockout stages due to international commitments but Sussex still managed to reach the final. Laurie Evans hit 63 not out in the quarter-final win over Durham while Luke Wright smashed a magnificent 92 as Somerset were hammered in the semi-final.
Unfortunately for the Sharks, Worcestershire would prove too strong in the final as they were defeated by five wickets, but nonetheless it had still been an excellent performance from Sussex and you would not be surprised to see them back at Finals Day next year.
The one competition where Sussex did not play particularly well was the Royal London One Day Cup, only winning two matches and finishing eighth in the South Group. The 75-run victory over Somerset was the highlight of a disappointing competition for the club.
So no trophies or promotion for Sussex again this year but in Jason Gillespie’s first season as head coach progress has certainly been made and it should not be too long before Sussex fans are celebrating again.
SSCC: 3rd – Division Two
T20 Blast: Runners-Up, 3rd – South Group
RLODC: Group Stages, 8th – South Group
😏 What better way to start your weekend?
— Sussex Cricket (@SussexCCC) September 29, 2018
SSCC: Ben Brown – 912 runs
T20 Blast: Laurie Evans – 614 runs
RLODC: Harry Finch – 250 runs
SSCC: Ollie Robinson – 74 wickets
T20 Blast: Jofra Archer – 22 wickets
RLODC: Ollie Robinson and Danny Briggs – 9 wickets
Player of the Season
Two players stood out for Sussex in 2018. Ollie Robinson in the Championship and Laurie Evans in the Vitality Blast and it is only fair they share the player of the season award.
Robinson featured in 14 of his teams’ Championship matches, finishing second only to Matt Henry in the Division Two leading wicket-takers standings. His haul of 74 wickets came at an average of 18, with his best performance coming in the win over Leicestershire at Hove where he took 10 wickets in a match for the first time.
Former Warwickshire man Evans finished as the highest run-scorer in the entire competition in the Blast with 614 runs including seven half-centuries. He was often the glue of a Sussex batting outfit that was poor at times especially in the group stages. Without the runs Evans provided, the Sharks certainly would not have reached Edgbaston.
He may have only played nine matches in the Blast but it is hard not to get excited about Bermudian Delray Rawlins. His stats were not amazing, 203 runs at an average of 25 but the youngster played a couple of innings to show he is one to watch in the future. His 49 off 35 balls against Middlesex at Lords came in his debut innings and he also played a starring role in the quarter-final win over Durham. There will be many following his progress in years to come, and possibly even the England selectors.
Could have done better
If Rawlins had a T20 tournament to remember then Tom Bruce had one to forget. The New-Zealander was signed for the entire competition but would play just 10 matches. He only scored 62 runs and was dropped after the defeat to Somerset. Whilst Rashid Khan will be back again in 2019, it would be a big surprise if Bruce were to return to Hove.
Need to work on
If Sussex are going to push for promotion they are going to have to improve their away form. Just one win came from their seven away games in 2018, at Cheltenham against Gloucestershire. Whereas there were four defeats against Kent, Middlesex, Durham and Northamptonshire. Of course home advantage is always going to play a major part in any result but the best sides find a way of winning in all conditions and at different venues. This was one of things Sussex struggled with this season.
Sussex will desperately want to win promotion back to Division One next season, and they will never have a better chance with rumours circulating that three sides will be promoted in 2019 with the ECB considering restructuring the Championship once again.
There has been little news of any potential new arrivals or departures at Hove since the season ended but Rashid Khan is definitely returning for the first half of the Blast next year.
Success is often defined by achievement and in terms of trophies Sussex achieved nothing in 2018. However they played some fabulous cricket at times and should be praised for that. Moreover they had a much better season than many other counties did. Expect further improvements to be made in 2019.