Sussex Sharks in the Vitality Blast: what happens next

The Sharks have won eight group games and lost only two / Picture by Getty Images
The Sharks have won eight group games and lost only two / Picture by Getty Images

Sussex have home advantage in the quarter-finals of the Vitality Blast after two away wins in three days clinched top spot in their T20 group with a game to spare.

Jason Gillespie’s team have lost just twice in 13 games in a consistent south group campaign. One of those defeats came when Essex Eagles edged them out by just nine runs in front of another sell-out 6,000 crowd at Hove last Thursday.

But anyone who thought they might be stuttering as the line drew close was proved wrong when Luke Wright and Co went on to win at Uxbridge and Cardiff within 48 hours over the holiday weekend.

Wins number seven and eight in the campaign were enough to clinch top spot with one game to go – that coming at home to Gloucestershire this Friday – and make sure of a home quarter-final for the first time in several seasons.

It will be played against the third or fourth-placed team in the north group between September 4 and 7. Those two berths are currently occupied by Notts and Worchestershire although teams have one or two games to play, so that could change. The table will be finalised on Friday night.

Gloucestershire, Kent and Middlesex look the prime candidates to join Sussex in going through to the QFs from the south group.

Finals day, for the four winning quarter-finalists, is at Edgbaston on September 21.

Sussex are keen to make it to the big day and go one better than last year, when they beat Somerset in the semi-finals but lost to Worcestershire Rapids in a tense final.

It was two more emphatic run chases away to Middlesex and Glamorgan that carried the Sharks to their unassailable position at the top.

Neither chase involved a low total – but both replies ended in comfortable victories with plenty of time to spare.

At Uxbridge on Saturday Middlesex posted 171-5 but unbeaten knocks of 52 from Laurie Evans and 41 from Alex Carey powered Sussex back to winning ways after the defeat to Essex two nights earlier.

Wright (48) and Phil Salt (29) had got them off to an electric start to set up the Uxbridge win. On Monday there was more of the same from the Sussex top order at Sophia Gardens despite Wright not batting after injuring his wrist.

Again Carey and Evans were at the centre of the success – the Australian striking 61 and Evans 45 not out, backed by useful contributions of 27 from Salt and 25 not out from David Wiese.

Both wins were secured with more than three overs to spare.

Gillespie said after the latter win: “I was delighted with the performance and it rounds off a great weekend for us.

“We kept up our standard and I was very proud of them all.”