CHRIS LIDDLE has been backed to put a nightmare summer behind him and finish the season on a high.
The left-arm seamer has endured his worst campaign since joining Sussex eight years ago but offered a timely reminder of his talent with a superb display at the Oval on Wednesday.
Liddle finished with figures of 3-39 from his ten overs as the Sharks kept their hopes of qualifying for the quarter-finals of the Royal London One-Day Cup alive with a 36-run win over Surrey.
It was a huge step in the right direction for the 30-year-old who had been Sussex’s most reliable bowler in white-ball cricket before tinkering with his action during the winter.
He took just five wickets in the NatWest T20 Blast at an economy rate of 9.33 while his solitary scalp in his previous 50-over games had cost 154 runs and saw him dropped for the defeat at Edgbaston.
Coach Mark Robinson had tipped Liddle to challenge for a place in the England limited overs set up at the start of the season and hopes Wednesday’s confidence-boosting display can be a platform for him to rediscover his best form.
Robinson said: “By his own admission Chris has struggled this season so it was really pleasing to see him bowl well along with the rest of the attack on Wednesday.
“He tried to do something new in the winter with the aim of getting back into the four-day team and it worked against him in the long run. It has taken him a while to get that out of his system and the game can be cruel sometimes when you are down.
“When things aren’t going well things like dropped catches and misfields always seem to go against you and that affects your confidence even more. He has also been fighting to get back to where he was before and that is hard in one-day cricket as the margin for error is so small.
“But Chris has an excellent record in limited overs cricket so we were confident he would get it right in the end and it is satisfying when you see somebody come through something like that.
“Chris knows it is only one game and that he still has plenty of work to do but the way he bowled on Wednesday will give him a lot of confidence and hopefully he can build on it for the rest of the year now.”
Liddle’s return to form with the ball is a massive boost to Sussex’s hopes of finishing in the top four in group B to progress to the knockout stages of the competition.
Back-to-back victories over Durham and Surrey have kept them in contention after losing their opening two games but they probably need to win three of their remaining four matches to be sure of qualification.
The Sharks are expected to stick with the same team that has won the last two games against Middlesex at Hove today (2pm start) with Jon Lewis, Mike Yardy, Rory Hamilton-Brown and James Anyon still ruled out through injury.
That means sticking with vice-captain Chris Nash who is averaging just ten in the competition so far and has only passed 30 once in his last 13 innings in all formats.
Robinson said: “It has been hard for Chris as he missed all of pre-season with a very serious illness (burst appendix) and then was rushed back probably a bit quicker than was ideal due to the circumstances.
“He has struggled to get up and running but the key is to keep believing as you are always only one innings away from being back in form. Nashy has great character so I’m sure he will come through it in the same way Chris Liddle has.”
Sussex squad: Nash, Wright, Joyce, Cachopa, Machan, Brown, Arafat, Beer, Piolet, Liddle, Hatchett, Wells, Zaidi.