Durham and Sussex will both be hoping to put their below-par starts to their LV= County Championship Division 2 campaigns behind them when the two sides go head to head at the 1st Central County Ground in Hove later this week. Both teams remain winless after three games, and currently occupy two of the bottom three positions in the table; Durham sit sixth, with Sussex stuck at the foot of the table in eighth place. The two counties will be looking for a strong response from their players, as both endured defeat by an innings in the previous round of fixtures. This game presents an opportunity for both to kick start their season with a much-needed first win, hoping to take advantage of the other’s poor run of form thus far. Being winless after the first four games of the season does not bode well for the rest of the campaign and both will be hoping they don’t fall into this category when this fixture reaches its conclusion.
Currently, the table certainly does not make for pleasant reading if you are of a Sussex persuasion. Their three games this season have led to two dominant victories for the opposition, with Nottinghamshire recording a ten wicket win, and Worcestershire earning the points by an innings. Their batters have run both hot and cold; promising young batter Tom Clark marked the first game of the season with a maiden First Class century, as well as Tom Haines and Cheteshwar Pujara both scoring double tons to drag the side to a draw against Derbyshire. Pujara backed this up with another century, but the inconsistency of this side is exemplified by the fact they have been bowled out for under 200 in three out of six innings. Sussex’s struggle so far has lay within the bowling department, with the team averaging over 57 runs per wicket, and are yet to take more than 10 wickets in a match.
Things up to this point in the season have looked a little brighter for Durham, who have, unlike their opponents, been able to create the opportunities to win games. The side from the North East were certainly on top in their season opener against Glamorgan, and if it had not been for rain, they would have fancied their chances at starting the campaign with a victory. They also gave themselves the chance to defeat Leicestershire, although they were unable to find the necessary breakthroughs in the 80 overs to bowl them out. Defeat at the hands of pre-season favourites Nottinghamshire is nothing to be ashamed of, but the nature of the thrashing highlights the deeper issues surrounding the team. Only one batter made a score higher than 36 in both innings, on a pitch which Nottinghamshire were able to make 488. Moreover, the bowlers were unable to create the chances necessary to make it anything close to resembling a contest, with the gulf in class between the two sides abundantly clear.
Despite being dropped from the Indian national side, Cheteshwar Pujara has hit the ground running during his stint at Sussex. His score of 201* in the second innings against Derbyshire, which included a third wicket partnership of 351 with Tom Haines, was instrumental in ensuring the side avoided a second successive defeat to start the season. He continued to show his liking to Division 2 with a second successive century in the innings defeat to Worcestershire, where only one member of his team made a half century.
In a start to the season containing very few positives, Matthew Potts has been able to prove his quality with ball in hand. The last two matches have seen two successive six wicket hauls, with his 16 wickets to date seeing him second in the Division 2 wicket charts. He will be hoping that his teammates will be able to overcome their individual difficult starts to the season. So far, he has been responsible for over 44% of his team’s wickets.
Durham look to continue to be without the England trio of Ben Stokes, Mark Wood and Brydon Carse for this fixture. , with Carse stepping up his injury return by turning out in a second XI fixture. Wood continues to recover from his shoulder injury, with Stokes returning to bowling in the nets following his knee troubles. Alex Lees was ruled out of the last two County Championship fixtures but returns to the squad.
Sussex’s bowling options look to continue to be limited given injuries to Steven Finn, Sean Hunt, Fynn Hudson-Prentice, Jack Carson and George Garton.
Weather and Conditions
Four days of cricket (if all of it is needed) will be possible, with the chance of precipitation never exceeding 10%. However, catching a sight of the sun will also be rare, with overcast conditions forecast from Thursday to Sunday. Could this provide the boost that the Sussex bowlers need to turn around their poor form so far? The temperature looks to remain mild, averaging around 15 degrees. It seems we are past the period where bobble hats in the slips are socially accepted.
Date: Thursday 28th April to Sunday 1st May
Ground: The 1st Central County Ground, Hove
Odds (SkyBet): Sussex 1/1; Durham 8/11