Ben Brown wants to play a big part as Sussex try to improve on their disappointing record in the Royal London One-Day Cup.
The county's captain paid his own way to spend two weeks in South Africa last month working on his white-ball skills with team-mate Luke Wright and is desperate to make his team more competitive in the 50-overs format.
The Sharks have won only nine Royal London games in the past five years and just two last season, although one of them was against beaten finalists Kent. It is a poor record for a county with a history of winning one-day titles going all the way back to the inaugural Gillette Cup back in 1963.
“I think we showed real signs of progression last year but ultimately we didn’t play well enough for long enough,” admitted Brown. “We beat Kent at home and lost a game to Hampshire at Hove we should have won and they eventually met in the final so clearly the ability is there but we just have to do it for longer and more consistently this season.”
The signs at least are promising. During their trip to Cape Town Sussex focussed on white-ball cricket with the tournament starting early in the season. They were unbeaten in five games including two wins over Kent, whom they meet at Beckenham on Sunday. Before then there is a home date with Surrey on Friday in front of the Sky cameras (1pm).
Ton-up hero says Sussex's win in Durham meant a lot
Wright can be a white-ball wonder for Sussex
“We only played 50-over cricket in Cape Town so naturally the first part of pre-season has been focussed around that format,” Brown said. “I felt we made real progress last season but lost a couple of tight games. If we can start to win a few more of those close ones, then I think we can have a really good run in the competition. We definitely have the squad to do well in white-ball cricket.”
Wright, who announced last week he is concentrating on limited-overs formats, will once again have a key role at the top of the order while South African Stiaan van Zyl’s experience – he averages 36 in List A cricket – will also be crucial.
Reaching the final of last year's Vitality Blast should give Sussex added confidence that they can make an impression over 50 overs as well as 20. With the likes of Delray Rawlins and George Garton likely to get an opportunity at some stage there are plenty of options for Brown and head coach Jason Gillespie. Mir Hamza’s availability and the left-arm option he offers is another boost.
Brown has been striving to make more of a contribution with the bat as well as behind the stumps, working with Wright in South Africa on adding to his scoring areas and his power hitting. “I have worked hard on my white-ball skills, especially on power hitting and the way I play spin,” he said.
“We know as a squad we have underperformed in 50-overs cricket in the last few years which is a surprise I guess when you look at our squad. The South Group is always competitive, but we feel we can improve this year. The knockout stages has to be a realistic target for us.”
:: A full list of fixtures for the Royal London One-Day Cup can be found here. Tickets for Sussex home matches can be purchased on the county’s website via this link.