Mark Davis believes Sussex are heading in the right direction, despite two frustrating rain-hit days at Derby this week.
After Ed Joyce’s career-best 250 – an innings the head coach described as ‘unbelievable’ - and a first century of the season from Luke Wells following his promotion to No.3, Sussex were well placed to claim their first Championship win of the season.
But just 26.3 overs were possible on the last two days leaving the second division title favourites still waiting for their first win in the Specsavers County Championship, ahead of this weekend’s meeting with the other relegated county, Worcestershire, at New Road.
As well as the form of Joyce and Wells, Davis was impressed with his bowlers with Stuart Whittingham taking three wickets on debut and bowling aggressively while Lewis Hatchett, who appears to have put an injury-plagued 12 months behind him, returned with 5 for 58.
“There have been lots of positives despite the weather,” said Davis. “Ed batted unbelievably and overshadowed Luke’s innings a little bit, but Luke played just as well because there was always something in the wicket for the bowlers.”
The emergence of Whittingham, a 22-year-old who was born in Derby and is in his first year on the staff after finishing his university studies at Loughborough, was probably the highlight in terms of Sussex’s long-term prospects.
Davis reiterated in pre-season that consistent performances in the seconds were the only route into the first team for young players at Hove and Whittingham and all-rounder Harry Finch, who made his first appearance of the season, responded with early-season wickets and runs.
“Stuart has always been quick but physically he’s filled out and is a lot stronger,” said Davis. “He took six wickets in one game and four in another for the seconds and got his chance as a result. With George Garton too, it’s exciting to see good young Sussex fast bowlers coming through.
“The senior pros are great with the youngsters as well. They give them advice but they don’t put too much stress on them.”
Captain Luke Wright is targeting a return in Sussex’s opening match in the NatWest T20 Blast against Gloucestershire in Bristol on May 20 after stepping up his rehab this week following wrist and back problems.
Ajmal Shahzad (side) is due to practice with the squad on Friday ahead of Sunday’s trip to New Road while a scan has revealed no fracture after Joyce was hit on the hand at Derby. Both he and Ross Taylor, who has been struggling with a finger injury, will face Worcestershire.
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