Being a Worcestershire man, I like to see the smaller counties do well. I’m a sucker for the underdog. So I was really sad to see Sussex relegated from the first division of the championship yesterday.
After Worcestershire’s relegation last week, one wonders whether the larger counties with test grounds will continue to dominate English cricket, while the relatively impoverished clubs struggle to compete. It didn’t escape my attention that Surrey, another big club, will replace Sussex in next year’s first division.
Hampshire deserve a lot of credit for their great escape. It’s a far from vintage Hants side so their members will be as pleased as punch. It’s just a shame that it has come at the expense of one of the more likeable counties.
I’ve been an admirer of Sussex for some time. I’m exiled in Kent these days (I’m a short train ride into London) so I tend to keep an eye on the clubs close to me. Sussex have often punched above their wight over the years and I’ve always been a big fan of Ed Joyce.
It’s unbelievable that Joyce has never played a test. He’s scored 16,500 first class runs at an average of 47 with forty one hundreds. Talk about prolific. He’s also scored three ODI tons for England.
I’ve also enjoyed watching Chris Nash over the years. He’s always been a very good player. Michael Yardy’s struggles off the field also make it impossible not to root for the guy. That’s three popular cricketers right there. It was heart warming that Yardy made a few runs yesterday in what will be his final professional dig.
It’s hard to know exactly where it’s gone wrong for Sussex this year. Although they could’ve used more runs from the aforementioned Joyce and Nash, Luke Wright and Ben Brown both scored over 1,000 championship runs with healthy averages. Matt Machan also had a decent year.
I imagine the bowling let them down more than anything. Although the reliable Aussie Steve Magoffin took 69 wickets at 24 and Oliver Robinson took 46 wickets at 25, the support was lacking:
Chris Jordan averaged 29 with the ball but only played six games. Ajmal Shahzad also made an impression, but played just five times. Tymal Mills was also a write off. One wonders whether he’ll ever stay fit. That lad’s as brittle as filo pastry.
Although Worcestershire’s relegation was to be expected – we have an incredibly young team and I was just happy that we showed some fight at times – Sussex’s fate was avoidable to a large extent. I for one am sad to see them go.
Whereas Worcs have a lot of exciting young players – keep an eye on Tom Fell and Joe Clarke in particular – Sussex aren’t so blessed. With Ed Joyce now 37, and Yardy stepping away from the game altogether, I wonder whether they’ll be able to bounce back quickly?
Great piece James.
County cricket has rather passed me by this summer and it didn’t dawn on me until yesterday that this situation was likely. I’m hoping its nothing more than a coincidence that 8 of the 9 teams in div 1 next season are test counties (I doubt we’ll ever get 9 given Glamorgan’s plight)
Some suggest it suits the ECB to have the bigger counties in the top division, they have more resource so can develop more players and these will be playing the more competitive cricket.
But counties such as Sussex, Essex and Worcester have strong membership and will hope for top flight cricket.
There are other counties (thinking Leicester & Northants) I suspect would consider giving up 4 day cricket altogether.
As for Worcestershire, what an incredibly frustrating season. We had enough opportunities during the season to save ourselves, too many 4th innings capitulations, or not being able to bowl teams out to force the victory.
But yes there are positives despite relegation and plenty of promising young talent. We’ll be back.
Shame for Sussex as they had terrible luck with injuries to their bowlers. Shahzad took 26 wickets in no time then was out for the season.
I would fancy Sussex to bounce straight back up and would fancy them even more strongly if two promotion places remain up for grabs
I was raised on the Hampshire-Sussex border and follow both counties. Although I was born in Hampshire, so tend to regard them as my first team, I’ve had more sympathy with Sussex in recent years with the club apparently well managed and Hove a much more enjoyable (and cheaper) place to visit than the wretched Ageas Bowl.
However Sussex have been heading this way for a couple of seasons. The batting has aged and stagnated (last year Ed Joyce’s prolific form covered that) with players like Chris Nash and Luke Wells not making the runs one would have hoped. Big things were expected of Cachopa but he had the sophomore season from hell. The bowling though has been the bigger worry. Sussex seem to have lost the ability to discover their own bowlers (like Kirtley or a big favourite of mine, Jason Lewry) and have relied too much on rehabilitating bowlers who’ve failed elsewhere (usually, but not exclusively, because of injury). This season they just haven’t had Jordan, Mills and Shehzad on the field often enough. The spin department has looked bare since Monty left (Zaidi is really more of a batsman) and only a damp summer didn’t expose that even more.
I guess the challenge for Sussex (and Worcester) will now be to hang on to their players or whether those with international ambitions look to move to a D1 team.
Footnote of pedantry: Ed Joyce scored three ODI centuries but only one was for England.
Yes of course you’re right Simon. I remember Joyce’s superb ton for England against Australia but I was struggling to recall the other two. Makes sense they were for Ireland. Duh!
You generally find the teams that go up deserve it and the same for relegations. If you look at Surrey (im a supporter btw) since we’ve stopped buying players left right and centre we’ve done incredibly well. Look at the Curran brothers, Jason Roy etc. Combine that with a legend and a great team spirit we’ve done well. Not purely because of money.
It’s tough. Some of it is economics – and international matches help.
But I think Sussex and some other counties suffer from being cheek by jowl with other counties. Makes it harder to develop young talent when it can drift off to another county via a 20 min train ride. Sussex have Hants, Kent and crucially Surrey all around them.
Mason Crane was let go by Sussex at 14 and went to Hampshire but are there any others who have escaped Sussex and gone to one of the neighbouring counties? Not sure there is?
By this I mean youngsters
The only two Sussex cricketers who went from Sussex to Hants I can think of are Joe Gatting and, further back, Billy Taylor – neither exactly youngsters. James Vince was born in Cuckfield but whether he had any playing connections with Sussex I don’t know.
By the way, Meta’s notion, even with some allowance for a rhetorical flourish, that it is 20 minutes by train from Hove to Canterbury or the Ageas Bowl doesn’t describe any experience I’ve had of south coast railways.
I wasn’t counting Gatting or Taylor. Vince although born in Sussex, grew up in Wiltshire.
Some of the pitches at Hove and Arundel in the last 2 years really haven’t helped, and (I suspect) might mean that other counties’ fans are less sympathetic than they might have been