It is a quirk of this season’s fixture list that Sussex’s opening two Vitality Blast matches both come against Hampshire, their south coast rivals.
It is a quirk too, of the British summer, that Friday’s encounter at The Ageas Bowl was washed out whereas the only water at this clash at Hove will be to stave off dehydration. Messrs Duckworth and Lewis can turn in early for the night.
For Sussex, the start of their Blast campaign once again. They arrive at this match with just six wins in all competitions this season and only one since the end of April, but should take confidence in their impressive display in last year’s Blast. They had a similarly dire record then: just four competitive victories before July.
In Jason Gillespie’s first season as head coach, Sussex became the first South Group side to reach the final since 2013, and although they were beaten by Worcestershire they proved an ability to gel together and perform on the big stages.
Hampshire no longer have the aura of T20 specialists. Last season’s campaign was rotten, with just two wins and an abundance of sub-par efforts throughout the team. They have not won a T20 away from home since August 2017.
After the Sussex abandonment and defeat to Kent on Sunday, this trek along the A27 represents a seminal moment for Hampshire, even so early in the competition: victory could kick-start their quest for a third title; defeat may turn them towards another wooden spoon race.
Luke Wright has had a long and impressive career but, even 15 years on from his T20 debut, he so often causes an insurmountable problem for his opponents. After signing a white-ball only contract in April, his performance in the Royal London One-Day Cup suggested a narrower focus will only help, hitting two half-centuries alongside reaching the club’s highest List A score at the time (166). Wright breezed to a 56-ball hundred for the 2nd team against Hampshire on Monday, brought up with a monster six back over Ian Holland’s head. Few English players outside the national set-up frighten bowlers quite like him.
Hampshire have sorely missed James Vince, their captain, but it is not since Liam Dawson’s call to England, on the eve of the World Cup, that they have won a match. The 29-year-old is integral to balancing the side, with his bowling particularly crucial, offering a calm and experienced head and always likely to bowl economically. He conceded just two boundaries in his spell against Kent and picked up two wickets. Dawson’s batting looks less necessary in a powerful top order but he remains a very dangerous operator with willow in hand.
Jofra Archer is still undertaking a period of rest following his involvement in England’s World Cup victory. Against his former club, Reece Topley is in line for his Sussex debut and his first appearance in over a year. Chris Jordan, George Garton and Stiaan van Zyl all miss out through injury.
Sussex squad: Luke Wright (c), Ben Brown (wk), Will Beer, Danny Briggs, Laurie Evans, Harry Finch, Rashid Khan, Tymal Mills, Delray Rawlins, Ollie Robinson, Phil Salt, Aaron Thomason, Reece Topley, David Wiese
Hampshire have named an unchanged squad from Sunday’s defeat to Kent.
Hampshire squad: James Vince (c), Lewis McManus (wk), Kyle Abbott, Tom Alsop, Mason Crane, Liam Dawson, Aneurin Donald, James Fuller, Sam Northeast, Chris Morris, Rilee Rossouw, Ryan Stevenson, Brad Taylor, Chris Wood
Form (most recent first)
Weather and conditions
The south coast is set for a warm evening, with clear skies and temperatures of 22 Celsius forecast. Sussex produced good surfaces last season with an average first innings score of 178, and more of the same should be expected.
Date: 24th July 2019
Odds (SkyBet): Sussex 4/5, Hampshire 1/1