Skipper Ed Joyce admits Sussex cannot afford another slow start if they are to survive the ‘group of death’ in the Royal London One-Day Cup.
The Sharks kick off their campaign in the new 50-over competition against last season’s 40-over champions Nottinghamshire at Horsham today.
Sussex are also drawn with last year’s beaten finalists Glamorgan along with limited-overs heavyweights like Surrey, Warwickshire and Somerset in what appears to be the most difficult group of the two by far.
Considering the strength of the opposition Joyce knows they cannot afford a repeat of last summer when they won just two of their opening eight games in the YB40 and missed out on a place in the semi-finals despite winning their last four matches.
Joyce said: “Like all these competitions it is key you get off to a good start but the fact we are in such a strong group makes it even more important.
“We’re in a bit of a group of death as it includes all the best sides with the exception of Hampshire but that’s life.
“The fact it is a 50-over competition now means it is going to be a bit more of a grind so the teams which start the competition well will be the ones who kick on and challenge.
“Also the competition is coming at a time of year when there is going to be a lot of tired teams around. Everyone has played lot of cricket over the last six to eight weeks but you don’t feel so tired if you are winning.
“We finished the season well last year by winning our last four games and beat Notts twice who ended up winning the competition so we know we have a very competitive team when our big players are on their game.
“Playing Notts is probably the hardest start we could have as they are a very good team and have players who can really take a game away from you like (Michael) Lumb, (Alex) Hales and (Samit) Patel.
“It is going to be really tough, especially at Horsham where it is usually a run-fest but we beat them twice last year and have players who tend to play well against them so it is a great opportunity to get off to a good start.”
Joyce admits he is not a fan of switching from 40-overs to 50-overs but believes the longer format could suit Sussex after they failed to reach the Twenty20 knockout stages for the second year in a row.
The Ireland international believes Sussex’s batting line-up, which lacked firepower in the NatWest T20 Blast with the exception of Luke Wright, will be particularly strong.
The fact there will be a new ball at both ends also brings Australian seamer Steve Magoffin into the equation having not featured at all in the YB40 last year.
He added: “I would have preferred it to have stayed 40 overs. I can understand why it happened but I think 40 over cricket is a better game.
“We should have a good make-up of the side for 50-over cricket and it definitely suits us better than Twenty20.
“I know Yards (Mike Yardy) is injured but people like myself and Yards are more suited to that form of the game and we have obviously got Wrighty Wright) and Nashy (Chris Nash) who are quality players as well.
“Matt Machan had a really good record in 40-over cricket last year and (Craig) Cachopa has come in and looks a good player so our batting line-up is a bit more suited to 50-over cricket.
“Our bowling should be there or thereabouts as well. Steve (Magoffin) is definitely in the frame to play if we get on the right wickets.
“He did a good job in a couple of Twenty20 games so on the right surface we think he could take wickets at the top.”