Coach Peter Moores says his Sussex team are ready to put their worst ever pre-season behind them and become a force in Championship cricket.

The county make their first division debut at the Oval against Surrey today (11am) and thoughts of former colleague Umer Rashid won't be far from the players' minds.

There will be a two-minute silence before the start to remember Rashid, who drowned on the club's pre-season tour of Grenada, and Surrey's Ben Hollioake who was killed in a car crash in Australia a month ago.

Moores said: "It has been the worst pre-season ever, but from a cricketing point of view it has gone really well.

"We're ready to play. We had a good pre-season in Grenada prior to the tragedy and since we've been back and everyone is in pretty good form. The key now is for the team we pick to bond together and produce what will need to be a very good performance to beat Surrey at the Oval."

Moores is happy to be heading to south London for Sussex's first game since promotion, even though he reckons it will be their hardest fixture of the season.

"Surrey away is probably the toughest game, but I'm very happy we've got them first up because I think we're ready," he added.

"It would be very naive of us to think we are going to go in and roll them over, that won't be the case. We are going to have to play extremely good cricket, but there will be a defining moment in the game and when that comes along we have to seize the opportunity.

"We had an aggressive attitude last year so we were always aware of when that opportunity in a game arose and it helped us win a lot of games."

With Robin Martin-Jenkins (achilles) declaring himself fit, Sussex will choose from a full-strength squad and if, as expected, they play four seamers and off-spinner Mark Davis then it will be a straight choice between Michael Yardy and Tim Ambrose for a slot in the middle order.

Moores said: "Everyone has pretty high expectations of themselves this season and whoever plays will be disappointed if they are not one of the main performers over the next few days."

With Adam Hollioake not expected back from Australia until next month, Surrey will be led by Mark Butcher.

He said: "After Ben's death it has been very therapeutic for everyone to get back together again and start playing.

"The worst period was when it happened and then the interim when you have nothing else to take your thoughts off it.

"I just hope everyone now is looking to be as professional as possible as far as the cricket goes.

"I do not think we can be any more determined. But if we walk away with a couple of trophies at the end of the season we will have a great thing to dedicate them to."

Surrey (from): Ward, Butcher, Shahid, Stewart, Ramprakash, Brown, Batty, Tudor, Bicknell, Salisbury, Giddins, Ormond, Carberry, Newman.

Sussex (from): Montgomerie, Goodwin, Adams, Cottey, Yardy, Ambrose, Martin-Jenkins, Prior, Davis, Hutchison, Lewry, Kirtley.