Tuesday 15 April 2008 

2008 Season Preview - Sussex

After back to back County Championship successes, Sussex will be looking to continue the dominance in the longer form of the game that has seen them secure three titles in the last five years. However, they will have to do it despite not strengthening their team during the off season, and also having lost two key players in Saqlain Mushtaq and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan as the quota for overseas players has been reduced from two per county to one.

The two Pakistanis will be sorely missed in the shorter form of the game, where Sussex has gained some success in recent years, reaching the Twenty20 Cup finals day for the first time in their history last year, after finishing on top of the Southern group. They eventually lost out to overall winners Kent at the semi final stage. In the two years they have been in the top division of the Pro 40 they have finished third and fifth, last season they were in contention to finish as runners up behind champions Worcestershire, however had to settle for fifth as they succumbed to Nottinghamshire on the last day.

Wicket-keeper Matt Prior confirmed that the County Championship is what matters most to the Sussex players:

"I think that different clubs have different goals. With Sussex the county championship has always been kind of special. I think the fact we hadn’t won it for 164 years until 2003 was probably one of the reasons why it made it so special. Obviously to win it 3 times since then has been absolutely fantastic. I think that a lot of people agree that the championship over the whole season is not something you can be lucky with, its not something you can have one good day or a couple of good days, it’s basically the best team over the whole summer wins it, that’s what makes it a special competition to win."

Asked who he thought would be the stiffest competition in 2008, he said, "If you look around the counties there are a lot of good players, county cricket is going from strength to strength I believe and there are a number of teams that could make a play for the championship. The thing we have to worry about is making sure that we are ready for what we want to do and how we are going to play our cricket as individuals and as a team. In six months for now we will all find out."

Coach Mark Robinson added, on being asked whether the Championship is the most important competition, "Well, initially maybe because it’s were we start. We are at the Rose Bowl on Tuesday playing a County Championship game. If we were doing this interview before the first Friends Provident game I would be saying I want to win that and the same with the 20/20. That time that someone tells you or the league tables tell you, you can’t then you change."

They were unable to back up their success in the 2006 Cheltenham and Gloucester Trophy, being dumped out in the group stage, after a poor start to the campaign and only picked up two wins in the competition.

If they are to repeat their double heroics of the 2006 season, they will have to get off to a better start to the season, whilst hoping key players stay fit throughout the season. Chris Adams, the Sussex skipper has played a major role for the county in previous years picking up seven trophies in the ten years he has led the club for. He turned down a move to Yorkshire at the start of last season in favour of two more years on the south coast. The possible inclusion of Matt Prior and one day specialist Luke Wright in the England squad for the summer’s international fixtures could be critical in for the Sharks during the upcoming season, as will Mushtaq Ahmed who has preformed so well for the county in previous years.

Key to Sussex’s success has been their home form; they have not lost at home in the County Championship since their last game of the 2004 season. The county will be making a long awaited return to Hastings to play host to the Essex Eagles in a Friends Provident match to add to the anticipation of the new season.

In: Ryan Harris, Ragheb Aga,
Rory Hamilton-Brown, Will Beer, Ben Brown,
Michael Thornely
Out Saqlain Mushtaq, Rana Naved-ul-
Hasan, Richard Montgomerie

2008 Predictions:

County Championship Division One: Top 3
Pro40 Division One: 6th
Friends Provident Trophy: Quarter Finals
Twenty20 Cup: Quarter Finals
Star Man: Musthaq Ahmed
Top Tip: Andrew Hodd

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By Richard Reardon