Vitality Blast: Big Oval crowd can lift Sharks

Sussex are due at The Oval
Sussex are due at The Oval

Laurie Evans can’t wait to face his former club Surrey in the Vitality Blast on Thursday and the Sussex Sharks batsman believes plenty of his team-mates will relish the raucous Kia Oval atmosphere too.

A crowd of 24,000 is expected as the Sharks bid to maintain their unbeaten away record in the South Group.

While Sussex have flopped at Hove – losing all three completed games including the return fixture against Surrey last month – they have picked up wins on the road against Essex, Hampshire, Glamorgan and Middlesex.

That victory against Middlesex came in front of a near full-house at Lord’s where Delray Rawlins, who made 46 on his T20 debut, and Jofra Archer claimed the first Blast hat-trick by a Sussex bowler in the 15-year history of the competition.

Evans, who made a career-best 96 in Sunday’s loss to Gloucestershire, said: “It’s a massive game and we’re happy to go there as underdogs – all the pressure will be on them in front of their home crowd. As we saw at Lord’s last week, our younger players will be inspired by the big crowd, guys like Delray Rawlins and Jofra Archer.

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“Delray thrives on the bigger occasion - a second-team game in front of nobody doesn’t float his boat so I am looking forward to seeing what he can do in front of a big Oval crowd while Joff seems to love it when there is an audience to entertain!

“I certainly love a big game and all the way through we have special performers and hopefully it can give us some energy because we need to put in a big performance against a good team. I never played much at the Oval so I’m absolutely buzzing to go back there to play in such a big game.”

Evans, 31, isn’t the only Sussex player returning to familiar territory.

All-rounder Chris Jordan played for Surrey between 2007-12 and one of his jobs will be trying to stop Surrey’s destructive openers Aaron Finch and Jason Roy from taking the game away from Sussex before it’s even got going. Finch has already taken 131 off Sussex in this season’s Blast, although he was dropped when he had made just one.

Asked what Sussex have to do to prevent another onslaught, Jordan laughed: “Hold our catches would be a start!”

“He (Finch) is one of the top T20 players in the world so it’s no surprise to see him batting so well. We will do our planning to try and combat him and Jason Roy but he’s not their only good player. Surrey’s batting line-up keeps coming and coming but hopefully we can get back on track.

“We’ve got five games to go and four, possibly three, wins could get us into the quarter-finals. It’s going to be tough but we are more than capable of achieving that.”