• County 2 min read

    Sussex shore up as they challenge for silverware

    Mark Davis has gone back to his native South Africa to recruit experienced names he believes will help Sussex challenge this season.

    Mark Davis has gone back to his native South Africa to recruit the experienced names which he believes could make Sussex challengers across all formats this season.

    But he is still happy to give youngsters their head again after George Garton, Jofra Archer and Stuart Whittingham were all given opportunities last season.

    Sussex have recruited South African all-rounders Stiaan van Zyl and David Wiese – who spent two months with the club in 2016 – under the Kolpak ruling, while fast bowler Vernon Philander will be with them for the first part of the summer.

    “We were lacking in certain skill sets and we think with our recruitment we have addressed that,” said Davis, who is starting his second year in charge.

    “We wanted players who can play in all formats. We have done that with Stiaan, David and Laurie Evans, who we’ve signed from Warwickshire.

    “We wanted to improve our white-ball cricket and those three will help us, as will Philander for the Royal London One-Day Cup and Ross Taylor in the NatWest T20 Blast.

    “Most importantly we wanted all-rounders who can balance our team. Last year, mainly because of injuries, we were almost picking an old-fashioned team with six batsmen and four bowlers. It didn’t feel like we were moving with the times because of no fault of our own but we are making progress now.”

    Davis makes no excuse for going down the Kolpak route.

    “Ultimately, we want to get good cricketers to the club. We have got some outstanding homegrown players so no one can accuse us of neglecting that area,” he said. “I did loads of due diligence with my contacts in South Africa and I went out to Cape Town to see Stiaan because I wanted to understand what he was like as a person. He’s very motivated to do well for us.”

    Between them, Whittington, Garton and Archer played 16 Championship games last season and they look like forming the bedrock of Sussex’s pace attack for years to come.

    But it is the emergence of 19-year-old Bermudan Delray Rawlins who is exciting Davis just as much.

    The left-hander was the star batsman on England under-19s tour of India earlier this winter, making two centuries and scores of 96 and 70. He can count Mark Ramprakash among his admirers, having only signed his first professional contract a few weeks ago.

    Davis said: “He went from being on the outside of our squad to getting a contract and being the stand-out player with England under-19s. He has come from nowhere and I can definitely see him being involved this season.”

    The Sussex players reported back to Hove on Monday and will play their first outdoor practice over three days against Surrey next Wednesday.

    “It’s one of my favourite times of the year,” added Davis. “There is all the anticipation of the season ahead. We’re looking forward to being a really competitive team this season.”

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