Fixtures revealed: Sussex to start Bob Willis Trophy campaign against Hampshire

Ben Brown can’t wait to lead his Sussex team out again when the county season finally gets under way next week, but admits it won’t be the same playing in empty grounds.

Ben Brown is relishing the competitive season getting under way, albeit nearly four months late / Picture: Getty
Ben Brown is relishing the competitive season getting under way, albeit nearly four months late / Picture: Getty

Sussex start their fixtures in the Bob Willis Trophy against Hampshire at the 1st Central County Ground on Saturday, August 1.

All matches in the four-day competition, which sees the counties split into three regional groups of six, will take place behind closed doors, although Sussex will be live-streaming all their games on their website for free.

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After playing Kent at Canterbury (August 8) they take on champions Essex at Hove a week later before facing Middlesex at Radlett (22nd) and Surrey at the Kia Oval (September 6).

“It’s going to be great to back out there playing competitively again,” said Brown. “But it is going to be strange not to be playing in front of a crowd, that will take a bit of getting used to I think, especially at Hove.

“We get good crowds for four-day cricket and our members and supporters are really into their Championship cricket. It will take away a bit of the enjoyment definitely but hopefully it might still be possible to have some sort of a crowd in for the Vitality Blast in September - we’ll have to wait and see.”

Brown and his team-mates have been back in training for more than a fortnight and played a squad practice match on Thursday. They are due to play Hampshire in a two-day friendly, also behind closed doors, at Hove on Monday and Tuesday.

“In an ideal world we would have had more time to prepare,” added Brown.

“We are going to have to adjust from training and nets to match play quite quickly. The boys are looking pretty fit. Our medical staff made sure we all had gym equipment to use during lockdown so that has helped but getting cricket fit only comes from playing so that might be more of a challenge.

“That’s why the warm-up games are important. I’m expecting the squad game to be quite competitive. No one wants to lose face in front of their team-mates and obviously it means more because if you make a mistake you’re out, that’s it.”

Sussex are still waiting to learn the availability of Phil Salt and Laurie Evans, who have been training with England’s one-day squad for the forthcoming series against Ireland and will know by the end of this week whether they are in the final 14-man squad.

But Chris Jordan is recovering from arm surgery, Jofra Archer and Ollie Robinson with England’s Test squad and David Wiese and Stiaan van Zyl stuck in South Africa because of Covid-19 restrictions.

“We will definitely have to rotate the squad which means there will be opportunities for some of our younger guys,” said Brown.