Sussex aiming for double
Sussex are eight points clear at the top of the Liverpool Victoria County Championship table but know they still need to put in a good performance against Nottinghamshire if they are to claim the title.
The race to be crowned champions has been tight all year, with Lancashire and Sussex neck and neck for much of the latter part of the season.
Now it is crunch time for Sussex as they attempt to claim their second title in four years, and complete a worthy double with the C&G Trophy.
Sussex’s professional cricket manager Mark Robinson is optimistic over the club’s chances and is delighted that they managed to come away with a win against Kent two weeks ago, while Lancashire only managed a draw against Durham.
“I think any lead is a good lead. You are always more worried about your own team, but I think the team are in a good position to go out there and win the game,” he told ecb.co.uk.
Sussex played Nottinghamshire in the NatWest Pro40 at the weekend and decided to stay in Nottingham as they prepare themselves for the most important match of the season, but Robinson insists that they aren’t approaching the game any differently.
“We came here for the league game on Saturday, and with coming from such a long way we didn’t see the point in going down on Sunday night just to come back again on Tuesday morning.
“We had a full-on game of football within the squad in a highly competitively charged atmosphere, but other than that we have done our normal things.
“We prepare for every game in the normal way. We know the circumstances and the consequences aren’t normal, but we have approached the game and our preparation in the same way.”
Sussex and Lancashire have already gone head to head this season, in the C&G Trophy final at Lord’s, from which Sussex came out victorious.
They are now looking to add to their growing list of trophies and complete a season double by winning the Championship too.
“It would be an announcement that we are a proper team. We’ve performed consistently now for the last three or four years.
“Our record is now nine trophies in five years, which is outstanding. To win it in 2003 and then back it up in 2006, to go along with the C&G Trophy will put a marker down for future Sussex teams to follow.
“We are only a small club and we revel in being small. We are a small sized club, but we are big on the pitch and that is what counts.”
Despite Robinson’s assertions, they have some big performers who have made a real impact for the south-coast side.
“We have got some big players, and there is nobody bigger than Mushtaq Ahmed who has got 89 first-class wickets, and Murray Goodwin has got something like 1600 runs. But they have been ably supported.
"Jason Lewry has got 55 wickets, Rana (Naved-ul-Hasan) and Yasir (Arafat) as a combination of bowlers have done outstandingly well.
“Then Michael Yardy and Matty Prior have batted well.”
However, Sussex have not always been so blessed this season and have played a lot of hard-fought matches to get where they are at the top of the table.
“We have had some exciting and nerve-wracking games. The game at the Rose Bowl against Hampshire early-season was in the balance for a long time.
“But my personal memory is of the one against Nottinghamshire at Hove on an average wicket where we gave away a big first innings deficit and then came from behind to bowl them out on the last day.”
Sussex’s never-say-die attitude has held them in good stead all season and Robinson puts this down to the personnel they have in the squad.
“The key part for us all summer is that a different person at a different time has got the team out of trouble.
“We have been in trouble a lot, but nine times out of 10 we have battled out of it. Some heroes have done something that has changed the course of the game, and that has been really exciting.”
Sussex go into their last match of the season hoping that someone will once again step up to ensure they come out with a title-deciding win, but Robinson knows that they have it all to do.
“For the grey hairs, it would have been good to have done it a couple of games ago. But for cricket, I think it is great.
“We are very excited, slightly nervous, but we are ready for it.”