In the midst of greatness
Steve Smith’s much anticipated debut for us in the LV= Insurance County Championship against Worcestershire has given the place a huge lift. It goes without saying that we had been looking forward to having one of the best players in the world among our ranks, but to actually have him here has been all that and more.
He probably didn’t get the score that he would have wanted in his first outing but it looked like he thoroughly enjoyed himself in getting to 30 before getting on the wrong end of a leg-before appeal. Speaking to some of the boys who are out there, they said he is good to be around and obviously very knowledgeable. Over the next two games, starting away to high-flying Leicestershire today, I think everyone will be hoping to see one of those big Steve Smith innings. But preferably down here at Hove.
It’s just good to have him around, and hopefully he can contribute with one of those big innings and help us win a couple of more games. The dismissal against Worcestershire, which ended a nice partnership with Cheteshwar Pujara, was just one of those things. On the livestream, it looks totally different to what it might look like in person, so you can’t really call it on that front.
Puj, meanwhile, just keeps rolling along — another hundred last week . He shows every time he goes out to bat why he’s so highly regarded and why we keep wanting to have him back. It just seems like every time he walks out it’s almost a guaranteed hundred by the way he just goes about it. He leads from the front and, similar to Steve Smith, he is very knowledgeable. It's nice to have someone like that among your ranks who helps you win games. Hopefully the form can continue and he can go and do it for India against Australia in World Test Championship final next month at the Kia Oval.
That sets up what should be a fantastic summer of international cricket. From an England and Sussex perspective, we hope that Jofra Archer coming back early from the Indian Premier League is not as bad as reported.
The past few years missing cricket with injury have been tough for him. We’ve spent a bit of time together just chilling out; obviously I’m quite close with him. It was nice to see him back in the game this winter and I think him coming home from India is more of a precautionary thing to just make sure that he’s fit for the Ashes, and there’s not a big spike in his workload. I haven’t spoken to him yet, so I’m not entirely sure what his elbow feels like. But he bowled a ball the other day at 152km/h (94mph) or something like that, so he’s still got that pace that everyone enjoys seeing. We’re just looking forward and hope he can keep fit for the summer and play a big part in the Ashes.
This summer is going to be an interesting one with the way England have shaped up under Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum. The brand of cricket that they’re playing these days — “Bazball” — every time they play against new opposition the question is, are they going to be able to continue playing like that? Is it going to work?
Australia have one of the best bowling attacks in the world, anchored by Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon. It will be a good series, but I honestly can’t see England changing their style of play of trying to go out and win every game from the first ball. It makes for exciting cricket, but also with the players they have, I think it’s beneficial for them to just go out and be positive and play that brand of cricket. It will be exciting and I’m looking forward to seeing who comes out on top.
Personally, it has been a damp week in and around Horsham — and we’ve just had another Second XI Championship match abandoned without a ball bowled. The umpires called it yesterday, the scheduled third day of four against Essex, because of a wet outfield.
Before then it was good to get some runs towards the end of the brief visit by the South Asian Cricket Academy. I had asked to go in at the top of the order to get more batting time before the T20 season, which starts in a few weeks with the Vitality Blast. It was nice to be able to hit a few out of the middle and contribute to winning another game.
Those matches included white-ball specialists Ravi Bopara, the Sussex Sharks captain, and Tymal Mills, who needed game time after not playing since sometime in the winter. We have about 2½ weeks until that first game against Somerset, so it’s important for quite a few of us to get some time under our belt in the middle.
• Delray Rawlins was talking to Dexter Smith
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