Sussex coach Mark Robinson believes the “coming of age’ of two of his young players can help the Sharks maintain their momentum in the NatWest T20 Blast.
They head to Bristol on Friday to face Gloucestershire buoyed by two wins in 48 hours last weekend when they defeated Hampshire and Glamorgan to move back into contention for a quarter-final place.
Sussex won by ten wickets in Cardiff after skipper Luke Wright and Chris Nash both scored unbeaten fifties but it was the victory at the Ageas Bowl against the South Group leaders that caught the eye.
Sussex were 14 for three chasing a target of 158 to claim their first win over their south coast rivals in eight attempts but Craig Cachopa, who was dropped to the second team after poor early-season form, blasted a career-best 89 while Matt Machan contributed an unbeaten half-century to an unbroken stand of 144, the second-highest in Sussex’s history.
Robinson said of the pair: “We know there is talent in there, that we have some special players so to see them take centre stage was brilliant.
“Our middle order hasn’t scored enough runs in the last couple of years and what they did was take some of the weight of expectation off the established players at the top like Wright and Nash.
“We know from his T20 record in New Zealand that Cachopa is a talent in that format and it’s a mystery to me why Matt Machan hasn’t exploded in T20 before previously. Now, we hope that two players have arrived in a sense and that we’ve got two gun players in our middle order.”
Cachopa praised the support he’d received from Robinson during his lean patch early in the season, although his coach insists it’s all down to the individual’s desire. “Coaches can sometimes give players belief but it’s down to the player in the end,” added Robinson. “We felt with him it was only a matter of time before he came good and luckily it was.
“It’s the first time since he joined us in 2014 that he hasn’t succeeded and he has had to go back into the second team to find some time in the middle and gain some confidence and it has worked for him. It has given us a feel good factor. Beating Hampshire, where we have often struggled in T20, was outstanding and we backed it up on Sunday. It sets the season up a bit.”
So comfortably did Sussex beat Glamorgan that Australia’s one-day captain George Bailey, who has joined them for the remaining T20 games and their Royal London Cup campaign, was not needed to bat but Robinson is looking forward to seeing Bailey make a different kind of contribution to his predecessor Mahela Jayawardena.
He said: “George has joined us with a few more smiles on our faces. It’s been a tough time with all the injuries so last weekend’s wins have come at the right time. Sometimes we have lacked that power at the end of an innings and he is more renowned as that type of player so his role will be different to Mahela.”
Hamish Marshall is expected to return to Gloucestershire’s team tomorrow.
The experienced batsman has missed the last four South Group games because of a calf injury and seen his side lose three of them, as well two LV=County Championship games against Lancashire and Essex during his absence.
Gloucestershire have won four and lost four in the NatWest Blast South Group so far and it is the inconsistency, which head coach Richard Dawson is finding hard to combat.
A home defeat by arch-rivals Somerset in their last outing did little to boost confidence and he admits better will be needed to overcome Sussex.
“Our first six overs in both innings against Somerset were not good enough,” said Dawson. “We had a blip with our batting, but bowling-wise giving away too many boundaries early on was something we had talked about before.
“The bowlers concerned have shown they can keep things tight, but not on a consistent enough basis. We will be doing some detailed practice going into the Sussex match and hope to see it pay off.”
Sussex (from): Wright, Nash, Bailey, Cachopa, Machan, Brown, Zaidi, Beer, Yardy, Mills, Liddle, Robinson, Finch, Piolet.
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