SUSSEX had a difficult T20 Blast campaign, losing ten matches and winning just four which saw them finish in seventh place and ten points behind a quarter final position.

This was a huge disappointment for the Sharks after making finals day of the 2021 T20 Blast tournament writes Joe Grant.

Ravi Bopara’s side won just one of their last nine matches in a dismal run of form that has left players, coaches and supporters feeling dejected.

The former England international took over the captaincy from Luke Wright at the start of the season but had a much harder task in front of him and had a torrid time of it.

Sussex were always going to face an uphill task this summer after losing star players Chris Jordan to Surrey and Phil Salt to Lancashire.

The Sharks made some good overseas signings bringing in Mohammad Rizwan and Josh Philippe initially, with Obed McCoy, Tim Seifert and Rashid Khan all making appearances as the overseas stars.

Due to international commitments the overseas players kept chopping and changing which created an unsettled line up. This is something that Bopara’s side will need to resolve next year by trying to bring in overseas players for a more sustained period so that the side becomes settled and used to playing with each other.

It is essential to Sussex succeeding next year that they bring Rizwan back as he was a huge success at the top of the order. If they can bring him back for a longer period it is likely that they will be able to progress further.

Another issue that needs resolving ahead of next season is the batting line up. With Luke Wright being out for most of the tournament with a foot injury, the batting order was constantly changing which was problematic for the stability of the side.

Tom Alsop, Ravi Bopara and Harrison Ward all batted several positions throughout the campaign which meant they were never really completely comfortable with where they were batting and find the consistency needed to make it far in a tournament.

The Argus: Will Beer in action on his Sussex Sharks farewell against Hampshire. Picture Stephen LawrenceWill Beer in action on his Sussex Sharks farewell against Hampshire. Picture Stephen Lawrence

For next year’s campaign it would be beneficial for the team to have a settled batting line up which only changes if replacements come in for unavailable players. For example, if Harrison Ward opened the whole tournament, he would be more comfortable with how he needed to play in that position.

The coach James Kirtley needs to find a succession plan for Luke Wright who will be in the final year of his contract next season and has struggled with injury and fitness this season. The former England international has been a stalwart at the top of the order for many years and has delivered time and time again so replacing him will be difficult. It is important that the Sharks start searching for that replacement whether that is within the club or outside.

Sussex would benefit from signing a couple of experienced T20 batsmen for next season as in many games the depth of batting was weak, and they were left with a long tail which cost them matches.

With the Sharks focusing on bringing through a lot of younger players such as Ward, Henry Crocombe and Archie Lenham it is important that they mix them with experienced players who know how to go far in tournaments like they have tried to do with Steven Finn and Bopara.

One of the biggest problems this campaign was the fitness issues that key players suffered from throughout. George Garton had a tricky tournament suffering from long COVID which meant he missed matches and couldn’t perform to his usual level which saw him make his England and IPL debut in the last year.

Tymal Mills also missed a few matches through injury which left Bopara’s side short in the bowling department and having to turn to youngster Henry Crocombe who has not played much T20 cricket.

Mills and Garton have both been key performers over recent seasons and it is essential to the Sharks success that they can both remain fit for the whole campaign next year.

Sussex must improve their in-game management particularly with the bat. Bopara’s side were in great positions to win at home to both Gloucestershire and Essex at the 1st Central County Ground but threw away the points.

Many of the batters threw away their wickets with reckless shots rather than just knocking the ball around and seeing the game out which would have picked up vital points.