Sussex head to Cardiff to take on Glamorgan next Tuesday confident that they can still mount a promotion challenge in the Specsavers County Championship.
Spirits at Hove have been lifted after they claimed only their second win of the season last week against Gloucestershire, winning by an innings with virtually a day to spare.
It was certainly the county’s most complete performance of the summer. Two batsmen – Luke Wells and Ben Brown – made centuries and their seamers, led by Steve Magoffin who took seven wickets, bowled outstandingly as a unit on a good batting wicket offering little assistance to them except some occasional uneven bounce.
For the Hove cognoscenti, it was a reminder of the days a decade ago when Sussex would sweep teams aside on their way to three titles in five years.
There is no Mushtaq Ahmed these days of course, but wicketkeeper Brown believes they have the armoury to take 20 wickets in a match even on placid pitches. And he feels that could be key to sustaining a late assault on Essex’s 40-point lead at the top of Division Two.
“We had a strong attack out against Gloucestershire but it’s easy to forget there are four seamers who have been regulars in the team this season – Ollie Robinson, Ajmal Shahzad, George Garton and Stu Whittingham – who weren’t involved. When conditions suit them – when there is a bit of help in the wicket – our attack will be a real handful.
“The way our four seamers hit the wicket was fantastic. There was a little bit of variable bounce but as a unit I thought we were fantastic. CJ (Chris Jordan) didn’t bowl well in the first innings but he showed an awful lot of character to come back and take four wickets that helped set up the win.
“We have been crying out for someone like David Wiese, who can take wickets by swinging the ball in the middle of the innings and bat as well. It’s probably the first time we’ve had that since Robin Martin-Jenkins retired.”
Brown is most excited about Jofra Archer, who also has the element of surprise given that he’s only made two Championship appearances after emerging in Sussex’s one-day team this season.
“Jofra Archer is a fantastic prospect,” said Brown, who had the best view in the house as the 21-year-old Barbadian came steaming down the Hove slope. “Their batsmen struggled to pick him up because his arm is coming from above the sightscreen. His approach to the wicket is fairly languid but he is bowling at 85mph plus, back of a length outside off stump – that is hard work no matter how good a batsman you are.
“He’s got a fantastic wrist so he can get bounce and he gets movement too. And as we saw against Essex he can bat too. If he works hard he’s going to be a fantastic cricketer. Not many people have faced him either so he’s got that element of surprise for a while anyway, not many batsmen will have been able to work him out.”
Essex are still clear favourites to claim the sole promotion place available, but three wins from their remaining five games would get Sussex in the shake-up. “We’ve got some momentum now – hopefully we can keep it going. We’ve got no other distractions now, we can completely focus on the Championship,” added Brown.
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