Vitality County Championship Match Preview: Sussex v Northamptonshire

Vitality County Championship Match Preview: Sussex v Northamptonshire

Blow to Sussex as Pujara misses season opener.

Sussex will have high hopes in the Championship with their youngsters having found their feet last season and now producing the results. Third place in Division Two was an excellent return and with Ollie Robinson available and looking to demonstrate why he should still be part of England’s attack, they could not be better placed. There is also the potential for Jofra Archer to be back at some point! The one bit of bad news is the announcement that their captain, Cheteshwar Pujara will not be available this week due to a back problem, although this is not the blow it might have been a couple of years ago, with him having played only eight championship games last season. Their top six all scored over 600 championship runs and they have been reinforced by the signing of John Simpson, who has been given the captaincy for the first seven matches. The question is whether Sussex’s keeper for the last couple of seasons, Oli Carter, can keep his place as a batter.

With Robinson leading the attack, supported by West Indian quick Jayden Seals for the first part of the season, they have the key ability to bowl sides out. The other members of the seam attack will also pose problems and there are plenty of choices, with Ari Karvelas, Fynn Hudson-Prentice, Henry Crocombe, Sean Hunt and Bradley Currie in contention.

Sussex enjoyed time in India pre-season as well as games against Surrey and Hampshire in which the batters and bowlers both gained value match time, so they should be as ready as anyone for this game.

Meanwhile Northamptonshire will be wanting to put 2023 behind them as they look to regroup. They were a distant bottom in Division One, with some respectability only gained with a win against Essex in the last match of the season. The batters were unable to post defendable totals and they will be hoping for a more profitable time against second division attacks. However, Robinson and Seals may not be what they had in mind. Karun Nair returns for the first seven Championship matches and Northants will be hoping for a repeat of the 249 runs he scored in three innings at the end of last season. They have also signed Somerset’s George Bartlett to reinforce the middle order. Ricardo Vasconcelos had a poor 2023, but he will presumably rejoin Emilio Gay at the top of the order, having been left out at the end of last summer. Luke Procter, Nair, Bartlett and Rob Keogh will make up the middle order with Saif Nair also in the mix. Lewis McManus will take the gloves, but averaged just 12.33 with the bat last season.

Northants did not get abroad pre season, but have played warm up matches against Oxford UCCE and Nottinghamshire. Unfortunately only 69.1 overs were possible against the students, in which Luke Procter made a century, while left arm seamer Michael Finan picked up four wickets against Nottinghamshire. Finan was released by Leicestershire at the end of last season and has not officially been brought onto the Northamptonshire staff. Australian quick Chris Tremain has been signed for the first four Championship games and he will likely be joined by Ben Sanderson, Jack White and Luke Procter to make up the seam attack, Tom Taylor having departed to Worcestershire. Justin Broad and Finan are other potential inclusions. A worry for Northamptonshire fans is the absence of their top wicket-taker last season, White from the pre season games.

Based on what we saw in 2023 Sussex have the depth to weather the absence of Pujara and the Northamptonshire batters will not be looking forward to facing Robinson and Seals, particularly if Robinson has fully recovered from the back problem that hampered him in the fourth Test in India. Sussex will start as firm favourites.

Key players:

Much has been spoken regarding Sussex’s Ollie Robinson, both positive and negative, but there is no doubting his ability when fit. He can be a handful for Test batting line ups and Sussex will be winning games if he stays on the field. There seem to be a number of reasons behind Robinson’s troubles and he has been getting help from a psychologist while away from the game. The fact is that he has played only nine matches since December 2022 and may now be at the last chance saloon as far as England are concerned. There will be plenty of eyes on Hove this week to see how he fares.

If ever a team needed some big performances from their overseas players then it is Northamptonshire and Karun Nair certainly made a positive impression when he turned up for the last three games of the 2023 season. Nair has scored 6861 first class runs at 48.65 and has a Test average of 62.33. However he has only played six Tests, the last in 2017 and his 374 Test runs are mainly the result of a triple century against England. He comes into our summer after a successful Ranji Trophy, scoring 1516 runs at 40.58.

Team News:

The notable Sussex absentee is Pujara, with no other injury concerns reported. This will allow Carter to play as a batter.

Sussex squad (probable): John Simpson (c/wk), Tom Alsop, Jack Carson, Oli Carter, Tom Clark, James Coles, Henry Crocombe, Tom Haines, Fynn Hudson-Prentice, Sean Hunt, Ari Karvelas, Ollie Robinson, Jayden Seals

For Northamptonshire there is a question as to whether White is fit.

Northamptonshire squad (probable): Luke Procter (c), George Bartlett, Justin Broad, Michael Finan, Emilio Gay, Rob Keogh, Lewis McManus (wk), James Sales, Ben Sanderson, Chris Tremain, Ricardo Vasconcelos, Jack White, Saif Zaib

Weather and Conditions

The current forecast is for some rain on the first two days, brightening up for the second half of the game.

The weather conditions would seem to favour the bowlers, although first innings runs have tended to be plentiful at Hove.

Date: 5th April 2024

Time: 11:00

Ground: County Ground, Hove


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