Hampshire were magnificent in winning last year’s Royal London One-Day Cup, and they have hardly missed a step so far on their quest to retain it.
The only blight on their record after six matches is Sunday’s defeat at Essex, but a confident victory at The Oval on Tuesday saw to any nerves that might have crept in and the holders are on the charge again.
Victory over Sussex would all-but guarantee a place in the knockout stages and they remain in the driving seat to secure a semi-final, too, with just second-placed Somerset left to play after this south coast derby.
But Sussex have been in terrific form too, winning four of their five games. They stole a nail-biter at Chelmsford on Tuesday, fighting back from 94 for six to chase a target of 284 with one wicket remaining.
It is the mark of champions to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, to never know when beaten. Sussex are real contenders for the title but this will be a far greater test for the Sharks, who have not beaten Hampshire in a List A match for a decade, and are without a win at Southampton since 2003.
Their strengths lie largely in their bowling, having yet to concede 300, but the resounding seven wicket win chasing 299 against Kent with ten overs to spare suggests they are a very well-rounded side. It should be a mouth-watering clash on the south coast.
James Vince has been in scintillating form this season with 430 runs from six matches, but with him absent on international duty, Hampshire will need greater contributions all-round. Rilee Rossouw has been typically impressive so far. Dropped down the order to accommodate Aiden Markram, Rossouw has hit three half-centuries and is a major threat at number five. In his new role, he will be particularly dangerous if Hampshire have a platform from which to build, but is more than capable of turning a game on its head.
Fresh from Tuesday’s match-winning 37 not out against Essex on his 28th birthday, Danny Briggs should be beaming with confidence. He has six wickets in the competition thus far — a modest return, but with scalps against four opponents from five — and will want to press on. It is a return to his former club for the first time in List A cricket, and with five T20 wickets in two appearances at The Ageas Bowl since leaving, it has been a happy hunting ground for him.
Hampshire has named a 13-man squad for Thursday’s contest. Brad Taylor and Mason Crane are included, as are 10 of the final XI that lined-up at Chelmsford on Sunday.With James Vince away on international duties, Joe Weatherley comes into the side and Sam Northeast acts as captain.
Hampshire squad: Sam Northeast (c), Kyle Abbott, Aiden Markram, Liam Dawson, Gareth Berg, Rilee Rossouw, Brad Taylor, Brad Wheal, Joe Weatherley, James Fuller, Tom Alsop, Mason Crane, Aneurin Donald
Chris Jordan joins Vince in the England squad, while Jofra Archer remains absent from the Sussex side after returning from the IPL and heading straight for Malahide to press his case ahead of the World Cup.
Sussex squad:Ben Brown (c) (w), Ed Barnes, Will Beer, Danny Briggs, Laurie Evans, Harry Finch, George Garton, Mir Hamza, Abi Sakande, Phil Salt, Stiaan van Zyl, David Wiese, Luke Wright
Weather and conditions
A cool day in prospect on the south coast with highs of 15°C. Showers could appear throughout the day and the forecast is for heavy rain early in the evening, so Duckworth-Lewis-Stern could come into play late in the game.
Date: 2nd May 2019
Ground: The Ageas Bowl
Odds (SkyBet): Hampshire 8/13, Sussex 5/4