Winning Vitality Blast would be perfect send-off for Sussex coach Gillespie

Sussex would love nothing more than to send outgoing coach Jason Gillespie back to Australia with a trophy.

The Sharks go into the 2020 Blast campaign in positive mood / Picture: Getty
The Sharks go into the 2020 Blast campaign in positive mood / Picture: Getty

And Vitality Blast captain Luke Wright believes they have the tools to do so ahead of their opening match of the tournament against Surrey at the 1st Central County Ground on Friday.

Although neither of their overseas players who were scheduled to play, Travis Head and Rashid Khan, are available because of Covid-19 restrictions and with Chris Jordan’s participation in the tournament likely to be limited because of England commitments, Sussex still look strong enough to emulate 2018 when they reached the final.

“I think we’ve got a lot of bases covered in our squad,” said Wright, who at 35 has played in more than 300 T20 games, including the 2010 World Cup final which England won.

“We knew a while back that we probably wouldn’t see much of Jofra [Archer] for T20 but we’ve got Tymal Mills, who is capable of bowling at high pace, guys like [David] Wiese, Ollie Robinson and good spin options with Danny Briggs and Will Beer, who are both hugely experienced in T20.”

It’s no wonder Sussex were keen to get Wiese back. The all-rounder made 284 runs last season at a strike rate of 149.47 with only Laurie Evans (358) scoring more runs.

Evans announced last week that he is returning to Surrey next season and will be anxious to leave a positive impression at Hove, where his consistent white-ball performances have got him on the fringes of England selection.

Then there’s the opening partnership between Wright and Phil Salt, who knows a good Blast might secure him an opportunity at international level after he impressed in England’s squad preparing for the recent 50-over Royal London Series against Ireland.

These days, Wright is happy to let his partner take the initiative against the opposition’s new-ball bowlers but there is a similarity in the way they approach their cricket.

“A few people have said that Salty reminds them of me a few years ago, I’m not sure if that’s a compliment or not!” said Wright. “As long as one of us gets us off to a good start I don’t mind. He’ll make mistakes like I did but he’s fearless and his ball-striking is phenomenal at times.”

Perhaps the key player will be someone pulling on the Sussex shirt for the first time.

Ravi Bopara joined the county a few weeks after guiding Essex to their unexpected triumph over Worcestershire in last year’s final.

At 35, he wants to concentrate on white-ball cricket for remainder of his career and brings massive experience, having played 357 T20 games in tournaments around the world including 38 internationals for England.

“I’ve played with Ravi and played against him for years and whenever we played Essex he was always seen as the key man, so it’s great to have him on our side now,” said Wright.

“He’s still very focused and if you look at last season he averaged 48.5 which is outstanding. He’s won a lot of games for Essex over the years and hopefully he can do the same for us.”


August 28 v Surrey

August 30 v Hampshire

September 3 v Kent

September 14 v Essex

September 18 v Middlesex

PLAYER TO WATCH – David Wiese. The South African all-rounder is a key member of the side. He is reliable with the ball and can change the momentum of an innings with his aggressive batting in the middle order.