Rated: Ollie Robinson and Sussex CCC players’ overseas winters under microscope as action hots up in India and Australia

Sussex’s squad have been busy in the off-season, with several players impressing in southern hemisphere action.
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With much to reflect on after a positive 2023 season, Sussex County Cricket Club are well underway in their preparations for a busy year ahead.

All four of the club’s overseas signings for 2024 have been busy in their home countries, while younger players have been honing their skills halfway across the globe to secure more game time in Hove.

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Paul Farbrace and his coaching team will have kept a close eye on the performances of those players ahead of a big campaign.

Dan Hughes and Chet Pujara - Sussex's overseas batting hopes for 2024 | Pictures: GettyDan Hughes and Chet Pujara - Sussex's overseas batting hopes for 2024 | Pictures: Getty
Dan Hughes and Chet Pujara - Sussex's overseas batting hopes for 2024 | Pictures: Getty

Promotion is the aim in the County Championship, while a response is wanted to disappointing showings in the One-Day Cup and T20 Blast in 2023.

The following players will be key in all those aims this summer.

Cheteshwar Pujara

After much speculation, Pujara’s return to English shores was confirmed in mid-December, albeit only for the 2024 County Championship’s first seven matches.

Bertie Foreman has had a great winter | Picture: Sussex CricketBertie Foreman has had a great winter | Picture: Sussex Cricket
Bertie Foreman has had a great winter | Picture: Sussex Cricket
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The India Test batsman will no longer be club captain, with John Simpson taking that honour, but Pujara’s run-scoring will still be fundamental from number four.

His winter, spent with home state Saurashtra, has provided plenty of optimism for what the 36-year-old can still offer.

In India’s four-day competition, the Ranji Trophy, Pujara has the third-highest run figure after 11 innings.

The 781 runs he has plundered so far – at an average of 78.00 – include a 17th career double hundred; a knock of 243 not out against Jharkhand on the same Rajkot pitch where England were recently trounced by India.

Nathan McAndrew of Sussex during day one of  the LV= Insurance County Championship Division 2 match between Glamorgan and Sussex at Sophia Gardens (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)Nathan McAndrew of Sussex during day one of  the LV= Insurance County Championship Division 2 match between Glamorgan and Sussex at Sophia Gardens (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
Nathan McAndrew of Sussex during day one of the LV= Insurance County Championship Division 2 match between Glamorgan and Sussex at Sophia Gardens (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
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Speaking of the national team, it has been a tough winter for Pujara as he has effectively had his international career ended.

It has been a fraught divorce, with the refusal to pick Pujara on his home ground when already without Virat Kohli and KL Rahul signalling that head coach Rahul Dravid no longer sees the Saurashtra man as a good fit.

Pujara has not let this affect his domestic form, and he should take full credit as his region progressed to the Ranji Trophy quarter-finals this week.


Nathan McAndrew

In just seven County Championship matches last summer, McAndrew made a huge impact for Sussex.

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He was one of only three bowlers in either division – alongside Matt Henry and Tim Murtagh – to take 30 wickets in so few appearances, and also rescued several innings whilst batting at number eight.

That came off the back of a brilliant 2022-23 winter with South Australia, and 2023/24 has proved no different.

The all-rounder’s Sheffield Shield campaign began with incredible match figures of 10-61 against New South Wales, and a further 27 wickets have followed in six games since.

He has often opened the bowling in that run, which considering Sussex’s failure to recruit an experienced seamer over the winter may offer a glimpse of his use to Paul Farbrace in 2024.

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While his one-day form has been underwhelming – with four wickets from four matches – and his Big Bash spell with Sydney Thunder disappointing – he took five wickets and scored 67 runs across nine appearances – McAndrew has clearly progressed in the longer format.

He will be crucial to Sussex this season.


Daniel Hughes

As a 35-year-old who has never gained much notoriety outside his homeland, Hughes seemed at first glance a timid signing by Sussex to replace the outgoing Ali Orr.

The Australian only made his New South Wales debut five days before his 24th birthday in 2013, but after emerging late, it seems he is also reaching a belated peak.

First off, he had a majestic Big Bash. Recovering from being dropped by the Sydney Sixers, Hughes was their key player in two eliminator matches with knocks of 74 off 43 balls and 42 off 33 to fire them to the Final, where he was out second ball.

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In the one-day Marsh Cup, he has been a driving force behind New South Wales’ run to the Final and is currently the competition’s highest run-scorer with 428 runs at an average of 61.14.

His First-Class form has not been quite as impressive, with no score higher than 59 from 13 innings so far and an average of 20.75, but he has recently had to adjust to being moved to number three.

Overall, with his intent to take on bowlers and the left-handedness that will replicate Orr, Hughes has done enough to seem a shrewd signing for Sussex.


Jayden Seales

Having been ruled out of an initial spell with Sussex due to a serious knee injury, Seales has been on the road to recovery for much of the last 12 months.

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His winter has seen some setbacks, but with action starting in the Caribbean back in August and potentially lasting right up until April, he has benefited from an organised programme with Trinidad & Tobago.

This began with a Caribbean Premier League T20 campaign that saw the Trinbago Knight Riders finish as runners-up, with Seales playing four matches along the way but never bowling more than three overs in each.

His recovery was stepped up as Trinidad went all the way in the one-day Super50 Cup.

The 22-year-old bowled tidily but often without reward, taking three wickets across six matches at an average of 60.33.

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Seales’ most promising spell came in the first unofficial Test of the West Indies A team’s tour of South Africa, as he took 3-23 and 2-48 against a decent Proteas side, most of whom contested the recent full Test series against New Zealand.

Though he suffered an injury setback in the second Test, Seales is now back in four-day action in the West Indies Championship and took 3-26 against the West Indies Academy last week, ahead of three more matches he could play in the competition.


Tymal Mills

Newly appointed as Sharks captain in the T20 Blast, Mills is by far the highest-quality player Sussex possess in the shortest format of the game.

By his high standards, however, it has been a quiet winter.

Without contracts in the Big Bash, SA20 or Indian Premier League, Mills has seen younger contemporaries overtake him in the fast bowling stakes.

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He has instead spent his winter pressing his claims for a spot in England’s T20 World Cup squad by competing in the International League T20 and Abu Dhabi T10 competitions.

Neither campaign has gone smoothly, with his Desert Vipers side finishing fifth out of six teams in the ILT20 as he was regularly substituted in and out of matches, while his Team Abu Dhabi came rock bottom in the ADT10, although he did take five wickets at an average of 18.4.

The 31-year-old also struggled in England’s T20I series in the West Indies last December, taking two wickets at 50 runs apiece before being dropped for the last two matches.


Ollie Robinson

The biggest outlier in this list, Ollie Robinson has played zero games of cricket this winter – until now.

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In fact, since the third Ashes Test in July, Robinson had not once stepped over the boundary rope in a competitive capacity until his call-up for the ongoing fourth Test in India – in which he starred with the bat over at the end of day one and start of day, scoring a ten-boundary, his score of 58 his first Test half-century.

While waiting for his latest Test call, he has turned 30, gone bleach blonde and started the podcast ‘Chatting Balls’ with Mia Baker, which has kept him busy whilst on the sidelines of the India series.

With the final two Tests taking place within a tight window of 18 days and seamers James Anderson and Mark Wood having both played two matches so far, Robinson is now playing a part.

Sussex have nine County Championship matches before England’s next Test series against West Indies in July, and he may will be involved in some or all of those as he fights for a regular Test spot.

Rating 6/10

Bertie Foreman

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As we turn our attention to Sussex’s younger players, we come first to the most outstanding winter on this list.

Still only 19 years old, Bertie Foreman spent much of 2023 on the fringes of the Sussex squad, serving as a substitute fielder and picking up sage advice wherever possible.

On the back of two promising performances against Warwickshire and Worcestershire in the One-Day Cup, though, he went away with the prospect of more first-team cricket very much apparent.

His travels have taken him to Manly Warringah District CC, a side competing in the New South Wales Premier Cricket set-up who had a convenient need for a prodigious youth.

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From October to now, Foreman has been an ever-present and a key cog in Manly Warringah’s success.

In a one-day campaign that has recently ended at the semi-final stage, the youngster took 16 wickets at 15.38 apiece, while having an outstanding economy rate of 3.08 having always completed his full allocation of overs.

This form has carried over to the two-day competition, in which he has claimed 19 wickets at 26.63, with an economy of 2.88.

His batting has not been too shabby either, with knocks mostly at number eight yielding 133 runs in six one-day innings, and 136 runs in seven two-day starts.

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All in all, this is exactly what Sussex would have wanted to see.

Expect to see Foreman compete for a second all-rounder spot in 2024, especially when Nathan McAndrew is unavailable or conditions begin to suit spin.


Oli Carter

The one man who, on paper, has lost out the most from Sussex’s off-season, wicket-keeper Carter is playing for a spot in Sussex’s side after new skipper John Simpson was brought in from Middlesex.

Carter has little to prove with the bat after finishing with 779 runs at 38.95 in the 2023 County Championship, but has faced constant questions about his keeping.

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A return to Newcastle City & Eastern Districts CC on Australia’s east coast, however, has been a good opportunity to work on his skills.

As club captain, Carter has featured throughout the club’s T20, one-day and two-day campaigns, with positive form and leadership in all.

His batting has been key at number three, with an excellent tempo to his four one-day half-centuries, while also making scores of 90 and 112 on his way towards a two-day average of 49.

Along with a range of dismissals behind the stumps, Carter has underlined the versatility he offers Sussex and could have gone some way to securing the gloves in white-ball cricket at the very least.


Danial Ibrahim

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Having joined Carter at Newcastle City a little later in the Australian summer, Ibrahim has more than made up for lost time.

The all-rounder proved impactful in T20s, with knocks of 45 not out and 24 both coming at a strike rate above 125, while his medium pace yielded four wickets.

His bowling has stolen the show in two-dayers, with consecutive figures of 6-51, 5-19, 4-53 and 3-58 from four innings.

Still just 19 like Foreman, Ibrahim has shown great willingness to take the team on his shoulders which should help his development hugely.

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Another candidate to fill an all-rounder spot that may open up in the lower middle order, Ibrahim’s winter away has done him no harm.


Assorted extras

Elsewhere, Jack Carson and James Coles both got opportunities to test out their spin against India A as the England Lions toured in January.

After taking 2-65 in a warm-up game, Carson fared worse in the first unofficial Test with match figures of 0-116 but did hit a pointedly Bazball-y 53 not out from 35 balls.

Coles performed about as well, with returns of 0-29 and 20 runs in the practice match before batting cameos of 13 and 31, as well as figures of 0-31 and 3-140, in the third unofficial Test.

Both get a 7/10.

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Harrison Ward joined the same grade cricket division as teammates Carter and Ibrahim but has been playing for UTS North Sydney.

After arriving in November, the T20 specialist has had an up-and-down campaign with fluent knocks of 80 from 78 balls, 66 (from 69), 46 (44), 47 (37) and 27 (32) counterbalanced by four single-digit scores.

He has also bowled decently to pick up three wickets in the two-day competition, so gets a 7/10.

Brad Currie and Charlie Tear have also both been called up by Scotland for games in the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup League 2 and a three-match T20I series against the United Arab Emirates.

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With seven matches packed into the first two weeks of March, it should be fascinating to see how the Sussex pair get on.

Otherwise, Sussex’s squad have been hard at work in the indoor nets, working over bowling actions and batting techniques, and getting to know new recruit Danny Lamb.

There is much anticipation for the new season at Hove, so stay tuned to Sussex World for all the latest updates as they arrive.