Another Season of mediocrity for Sussex
Red Ball consistency undermined by surprising limited overs failings
How they fared
After finishing third in the championship in 2013, Sussex were looking to recapture the title for the first time since 2007. The Hove outfit have been one of the most consistent teams in both red and white ball cricket over the last decade. But during this season, their one-day form fell from their previous exemplary standards and once again any sustained Championship title push stalled.
Sussex’s championship successes were often held up by two men. Ed Joyce was imperious with the bat and his seven hundreds were testament to the Irishmen’s application since being handed the captaincy. While Steve Magoffin proved to be one of the most underrated bowlers on the county circuit with his surprising nip and seam movement.
The Championship season started superbly for the south coast side, as they ripped apart both Middlesex and Warwickshire in the opening weeks of April. Magoffin and John Lewis making excellent use of early season conditions. Sussex also benefitted from having England players Matt Prior and Chris Jordan consistently available for the first weeks of the season.
Their good form continued as they went the first five games of the Championship season unbeaten. However, as with some other counties, the T20 Blast break appeared to disrupt their red ball form. After the introduction of T20’s, they failed to register a victory in their next 5 matches.
It would perhaps be excusable for their form to slip if they were putting in sustained stellar performances in the revamped T20 Blast. The problem was; they simply weren’t. Often a combative limited overs side over the past decade, Sussex prided themselves on fitness, fielding and the ability to chase down almost any total – particularly at home. A series of heavy defeats early in the completion cut short their interest this year however and it was particularly disappointing to see the bowlers letting the side down as Sussex struggled to defend totals of 178 and 175. Will Beer was the only bowler to concede at less than 7 runs an over during the tournament and with a misfiring batting line up that was never enough for the Sharks to progress.
It is however, worth mentioning Luke Wright’s exceptional T20 season, continually snubbed for international honours in recent years – England’s loss is certainly Sussex’s gain. His 601 runs at an average of over 50 included a monstrous 153* which set the new record for a domestic T20 in England.
The new Royal London 50 over cup would perhaps have been thought to represent Sussex’s best chance of silverware this year but once again they flattered to deceive. With just 3 wins from 8 games, they finished second bottom in their group and took a real beating at the hands of Glamorgan in their final game, as the Welsh county chased 330 in just 46 overs and with only 3 wickets down.
After the brace of disappointing white ball campaigns, Sussex found it hard to replicate any early season Championship form and had to settle for third place yet again. It is not a position to be sniffed at, but for a club with title winning aspirations, third can be deemed a failure of sorts. When looking at the wealth of talent at Sussex’s disposal it is easy to see why the members want trophies sooner rather than later.
LVCC: (3rd, Division One)
T20 Blast: (7th, South Group)
RLODC: (8th, Group B)
Leading run-scorer: ED Joyce (1904 runs) (All comps)
Leading wicket-taker: Steve Magoffin (73 wickets)
Win %: 40%
Player of the Season
This could easily have gone to Luke Wright for his swashbuckling T20 batting and his improved 4 day form. But, it is hard to look past the skipper Ed Joyce who, at times, single handedly propped up the Sussex batting line up as he accumulated nearly 1400 Championship runs. To score 7 championship centuries is an uncommon feat and it is testament to his patience, will and tremendous form. Combined alongside the pressures of skippering the side and also the skill required to open the batting, the Irishman was the cream of the crop for the Sharks in 2014.
A difficult one, with Sussex having a slightly ageing side, but 22-year -old South African born New Zealander Craig Cachopa applied himself well in his five championship matches at the back end of the season. His first ten innings for the club saw him pass fifty five times and after a trial this summer he has signed a new two year deal with the county that will hopefully see him shore up an under-firing Sussex top order.
Could have done better
Rory Hamilton Brown was hoping that a move back to the south coast would help to resurrect his floundering career, which has struggled since the death of close friend Tom Maynard. However his returns from 7 Championship games this year were woeful at best. He past 50 just twice and barely managed an average of 20. Even in his more favoured T20 format he only realised 195 runs at an average of 21 – disappointing all round.
Need to work on
Sussex will need more all round contributions if they are to begin challenging for titles and trophies once again. Aside from Ed Joyce, no other batsmen passed 100 runs for the season and while Chris Nash, Luke Wright and Luke Wells all enjoyed steady summers with the bat, the south coast side will need another player to stand up alongside Joyce next season.
There is a similar, if not worse, situation with the bowlers, Magoffin’s 72 Championship wickets showed his supreme value once again but the next highest wicket taker was Jordan with 25; and he only played 5 matches. One possible solution next season may come in the form of 21 year old Matt Hobden, he managed to take 12 scalps in three late season outings and certainly shows enough promise to perhaps lead the line alongside Magoffin in Jordan’s continued absence.
A steady but unspectacular season, the Sharks need to rediscover their bite next season.
Originally published on Deep Extra Cover