International T20 cricket is coming to Horsham, although before you reach for your Chris Gayle autograph book, start brushing up on Belgian cricketers.
Horsham CC is set to be host to the ICC (International Cricket Council) European T20 Championship in July, featuring the top cricketers you don’t know about yet.
Teams from Italy, Guernsey, Norway, Austria, Gilbraltar, Sweden, Denmark, Jersey, France, Belgium, Germany and the Isle of Man will contest the tournament, which will also be staged at Preston Nomads, Sussex CCC’s colts home at Blackstone, near Henfield, and at county headquarters in Hove, where the semi finals and final will be held.
So instead of the big-hitting favourites, fans can get to know players such as Italian captain Alessandro Bonora, who has 98 runs in nine T20 matches.
The 12 teams will be battling it out for the right to earn qualification for the next T20 World Cup.
“For us it’s the first experience of something like this,” Horsham CC vice president Barry Peay said. “We are pleased to be part of it.”
From July 8 to July 13, Horsham will host four days of matches on the two grounds at Cricketfield Road.
Previously, this tournament was held in the Channel Islands, and Barry believes the ease of access to Sussex makes it an ideal host county.
He added: “It’s good for everyone involved. It’s expensive and difficult to get to the Channel Islands, so having people staying in Crawley and coming down on the day is ideal.”
Although there will be none of the big names association with T20 cricket, like the West Indies’ ace Gayle, there will still be some talent on display, even if it is raw unpolished talent.
The Channel Islands teams of Guernsey and Jersey are expected to dominate, purely because they are used to the conditions.
“You would think the people that play on grass regularly would have more of an advantage, as Jersey and Guernsey have played Sussex Seconds” Barry added.
“The likes of Ireland and the Netherlands are not competing in it, while countries like Gibraltar only play on artificial surfaces.”
It also means a possible return to Hove for Dave Brooks, the former Sussex CCC chief executive, who is now part of the Guernsey Cricket board.
Horsham were first approached to be among the hosts last year and their positive response enabled the plan to come to Sussex to move forward.
And The timing of the tournament is not expected to cause problems with Horsham CC’s fixture list, with just one match on Thursday July 11 though to be affected.
Admission to the ICC Europe Tournament matches is free to spectators.