In the lead up to the 2016 domestic season, ecb.co.uk is running a series of features with all 18 first-class counties. Sussex have the talent to take the sole promotion spot in Specsavers County Championship Division Two, according to the recently-retired Michael Yardy.
A season of great promise quickly turned to one of great disappointment for Sussex in 2015, but after a winter of evolution rather than revolution, there is cause for optimism on the south coast ahead of the 2016 campaign.
Sussex won three of their first five Championship games last term and then cruised into the last eight of the NatWest T20 Blast.
However, once David Willey smashed the Sharks out of the Blast at the quarter-final stage, a young side lost some of their swagger and a winless Royal London One-Day Cup campaign coincided with an irreversable slide down the Championship table.
Sussex won just one of their last four-day 11 matches and, to make matters worse, were condemned to Division Two of the Specsavers County Championship by fierce rivals Hampshire on the final day of the season.
Gaining promotion in 2016 promises to be tough – only the winners of the second tier will go up as the top flight is reduced to eight teams – but the arrival of New Zealand star Ross Taylor to bolster the batting and England spinner Danny Briggs making the short switch from Hampshire should improve a side already brimming with potential.
Ollie Robinson enjoyed a breakthrough campaign in 2015, taking 46 wickets and scoring a maiden century, while Ben Brown made over 1,000 first-class runs and Matt Machan was only 45 shy of the feat.
Stalwart Michael Yardy has retired, with a number of fringe players also departing, but exciting Bangladesh left-armer Mastafizur Rahman will join Taylor as a second overseas player in the Blast.
Not that it has all been smooth sailing over the inwter, with the tragic and sudden death of Matt Hobden casting a shadow over pre-season preparations.
Luke Wright takes up the captaincy, and Yardy expects Sussex to be key players in the promotion race.
“It was a horrible feeling on that final day knowing we were probably going to get relegated,” he told ecb.co.uk.
“I think they can come straight back up. If you look at Ben Brown, he was one of the only wicketkeepers in the country to score 1,000 runs; Matt Machan and Ollie Robinson have come through and made an immediate impact this season; Luke Wright as the new captain is obviously a fine player; Ed Joyce is class, Steve Magoffin is class – it looks like a first division team.”
Joyce, Taylor and Wright certainly looks a strong top-order, and if the likes of Ajmal Shahzad and Tymal Mills can stay fit it could be a memorable summer at Hove.
Enjoying watching our new signing Rahman bowl for Bangladesh against NZ. Serious talent, its hard enough picking his slower ball on TV!!!!
— Luke Wright (@lukewright204) March 26, 2016