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Stewart highlights Sharks threat

Lancashire CCC

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Former England captain Alec Stewart believes Sussex are the side to beat in this year’s Clydesdale Bank 40 as they go into their clash with Northamptonshire tomorrow aiming to maintain their unbeaten start.

The Sharks flew out of the blocks with three successive wins at the end of May and, although they have been unable to obtain a positive result in their last four outings due to the weather, they sit in a commanding position at the summit of Group C.

Stewart, who featured in 133 Tests for England, now holds an executive director role with current CB40 holders Surrey and considers Sussex the biggest threat to the reigning champions.

“They’re a very impressive county,” he told ecb.co.uk. “Mark Robinson does an exceptionally good job as cricket manager/coach down there, he’s got a good set-up. Mike Yardy is leading the troops very well and they are the side to beat.

“They’ve set the example, it’s for everyone else to try and catch them in their group.”

Steven Finn

England paceman Steven Finn returns to Middlesex's squad for their CB40 clash with Gloucestershire at Cheltenham tomorrow

In contrasting fortune to Sussex’s bright start, the Steelbacks prop up the Group C table having failed to win a single game thus far. Coach David Ripley has elected to rest the quartet of Jack Brooks, Andrew Hall, Chaminda Vaas and Stephen Peters for the trip to Hove.

Elsewhere in that group, Warwickshire are just one point behind Sussex ahead of their home meeting with the Unicorns, while Yorkshire and Derbyshire will again go head to head at Chesterfield after the final three days of their LV= County Championship match were washed out this week.

The pair did offer up an intriguing first day, in which 17 wickets fell, and the weather forecast indicates the two should be able to renew rivalries tomorrow.

“The now annual and traditional local derby versus Yorkshire is always a big occasion for us regardless of league position because the crowds flock from both sides of the border and it makes for a great atmosphere,” said Falcons head coach Karl Krikken.

Yorkshire skipper Andrew Gale is back in the White Rose's squad following his injury, as is Mitchell Starc, who has been on duty with Australia A.

In Group A, Gloucestershire and Lancashire will hope to gain ground on surprise leaders Netherlands when they face Middlesex and Leicestershire respectively.

The Gladiators can usurp the Netherlands at the top of the group, but they must contend with a Panthers side which is boosted by the return of England’s Steven Finn and Ireland’s Paul Stirling. Eoin Morgan is also in contention at Cheltenham but Joe Denly misses out with a groin strain.

The Netherlands’ impressive form has shocked many but Stewart has credited their ability to beat the bigger names, just as they did in the World Twenty20 against England.

He added: “They’ve turned over some big names in their group and it’s for them now to make sure they continue to show that form in the second half of the tournament and, if they keep winning, they’ll go into the semis.”

Stewart’s own Surrey side recently lost for the first time in Group B against Nottinghamshire, who host Scotland at Trent Bridge tomorrow, and the ex-wicketkeeper is wary of the other sides the Lions must see off to reach the knockout stage.

“There’s a lot to play for,” he said. “I think it will ebb and flow, they’ll be a couple more upsets in that group before the end.

“But, I expect and hope Surrey to go through as group leaders.”

In Group B’s other encounter, basement dwellers Somerset welcome Durham to Taunton.

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