County Championship Preview: Sussex v Durham

County Championship. Sussex v Durham at Hove. May 21-24.

Durham travel to Hove off the back of a bitterly disappointing end to the One Day Cup and will need to pick themselves up quickly to have any chance of success in the County Championship this year. A big win is required to make the chances of promotion seem less hopeless. Thankfully for Durham the weather on the south coast seems like it will be fine throughout the four days and this could be a chance to catch up as rain looks to spoil a number of other matches around the country.

Sussex were the only club to vote against Durham gaining first class status and their position on the south coast generally makes them the antithesis of what is good about cricket in this country. The last time Durham visited Hove in the County Championship was in 2014 and proved to be a bore draw as both teams scored over 450. The last time the two sides met in the County Championship on any ground was in 2015 at Arundel, with Rushworth, Muchall and Hastings inspiring Durham to a comfortable win which played its role in relegated Sussex.

As usual Sussex were tipped by many in the media to push for promotion this season, an idea which seemed ridiculous based on their squad and the teams they would be coming up against. So far they have played two and lost two, taken apart by a Stephens and Northeast driven Kent and also brutalised by Nottinghamshire. Like another county in their part of the world, Sussex have gone the Kolpak route and have brought in Stiaan van Zyl and David Wiese into their team as well as Vernon Philander as an overseas player. However, the two most exciting players in their squad are the Bermudan (and now England u19) international Delray Rawlins as well as the Bajan Jofra Archer. Rawlins has not quite found his feet at number three yet but is clearly a talented batsman but Archer has shown what he can do with the ball against Kent (7-67) and with the bat in both matches they have played.

On paper, of course, Durham have far the better team but the squad is not team and injuries have ravaged the batting order. Jack Burnham is still absent with a broken thumb and Michael Richardson is left out of the squad after picking up a groin injury against Lancashire. This means that a lot will be required on Graham Clark, Cameron Steel, Paul Coughlin and Stuart Poynter with the bat. Ryan Pringle also appears likely to play and there must be serious doubts about his future at the club as it is a long time before he has contributed with bat or ball. In terms of the bowling attack Brydon Carse seems to have picked up an injury but the club have not been clear as how serious it is. If he is out for the season it would be another huge blow for him after last year’s injury troubles. What this means, with Mark Wood and Barry McCarthy away with their international teams, is that James Weighell will come into the side after his superb One Day form and there is also a chance for Scotland international Gavin Main who has come back to fitness with the 2nds.

Durham then require more than 20 points from this game if they want to have a chance of reaching second. We will know by the start of the t20 blast whether promotion is still possible and wins are needed quickly. It seems unlikely that Durham could lose this game but Rushworth, Onions, Coughlin and Weighell will need to be as ruthless as the Notts bowlers have been this season.

Predicted line-ups:

Sussex: Finch, Nash, Rawlins, van Zyl, Evans, Wright, Burgess, Archer, Jordan, Philander, Magoffin.

Durham: Cook, Jennings, Steel, Clark, Collingwood, Coughlin, Pringle, Poynter, Weighell, Onions, Rushworth.

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