Wooden spoon doesn't tell whole story of Sussex's county championship campaign

On paper it looks bad. But there is more to the story of Sussex’s county championship than finishing bottom of the bottom division and taking their first four-day wooden spoon for 21 years.

Tom Haines, recently made skipper of the championship and one-day cup side, receives his county cap / Picture: Sussex Cricket
Tom Haines, recently made skipper of the championship and one-day cup side, receives his county cap / Picture: Sussex Cricket

The 2021 season goes down as the year the county took a giant leap of faith in giving a whole host of promising youngsters their chance in first-class cricket – and in the One Day Cup campaign. And the move cannot yet be judged.

This season’s championship results have been poor, yet there have been plenty of individual stand-out displays along the way. And only when we see what blooding the young guns does for their careers next year and beyond will we know whether this Sussex policy will have paid off.

Supporters have generally backed the move, but in time they will want to see it transformed into victories and success, particularly in the championship, in which Sussex have been under-performing for several summers.

Ian Salisbury’s team ended their four-day campaign with four straight defeats, the last of which was a hefty loss at home to Derbyshire last week.

Salisbury said afterwards: “To lose by nine wickets is obviously disappointing.

“It’s funny that we break a record for the highest score with six ducks but if half of those get runs we save the follow on and it’s a different game.

“I can’t fault the effort of the guys but the table doesn’t lie.

“It can only get better from here and I genuinely think with the quality of the younger players we have given opportunity to this season, the future is bright.”

Batsman Tom Haines captained the championship and one-day cup side in the latter part of the season and had a superb season personally.

It would seem likely he will be skipper again in 2022, while the likes of Ali Orr, Dan Ibrahim, Jamie Atkins and Jack Carson, all given plenty of outings this year, will be looking to nail down regular spots in the side. Salisbury said: “To be able to present Tom Haines with his county cap was a very proud moment for me as coach.

“To finish as leading run scorer is a tremendous achievement.

“Tom has grown as a cricketer and a person so much this season.”

For his part, Haines has enjoyed captaining the side and said he was proud to receive his county cap, becoming the 148th Sussex player to receive one.

The ex-Horsham man scored 1176 championship runs at an average of 47.04.

Performance Director Keith Greenfield said: “Tom has enjoyed a truly remarkable summer.

“His performances speak for themselves, but this county cap also recognises how he has lived the values of our club.

“His work ethic, his commitment to his teammates and his leadership in the face of challenging circumstances make him fully deserving of this honour.”

Among all the promising youngsters, one of the county’s older heads also had an excellent summer with the bat, suggesting he will be an important member of the squad next year – former skipper Ben Brown.

He hit four tons on the way to a total of 976 at an average of 51.37 and said during the Derbyshire game: “I feel good. I’ve felt good for a while, after the first few games. I’m enjoying my batting.”