Sussex and Hants go into t20 battle - but who will be skittled out?
If Sussex skittle out Hampshire when the neighbouring counties resume t20 hostilities tonight (Friday) - or vice-versa - it’ll come as no surprise to Scott Styris or Danny Briggs.
For they’ve already played out a little warm-up to two games that will be pivotal to the outcome of ths south group - in a pub’s skittle alley.
Sussex’s New Zealander and the Hampshire Royals and England spinner did battle at The Barley Mow at Walderton on the Hampshire-Sussex border for a bit of fun in the lead-up to the Hove clash between the old rivals.
And Briggs will be hoping the outcome of the skittles match is a good guide to bowling form - for he took the bragging rights in a bowl-off after the pair had played out a thrilling tie which would have had the crowd on the edge of their seats ... had there been one.
Styris is in his second t20 campaign with the Sharks who made t20 headlines last season with a 37-ball ton that demolished Gloucestershire at Hove and got Sussex to a finals day on which they lost a semi-final to Yorkshire - and Yorkshire went on to lose the final to hand a second t20 trophy in three years to the Royals.
Styris, who joked that the chance to bowl underarm along the skittle alley made him feel like an Aussie for the day, is relishing the games against Hampshire - and said there was a strong incentive for the Sharks to overcome their neighbours - who they also face at the Ageas Bowl next Friday, July 12.
“It’s always a competitive game and should be a good battle. If we can beat these guys, we can knock them out and then don’t have to play them in the later stages,” he said.
“The concentration is on getting through. The south group is tough - it’s always strong.
“Sussex can sell out our ground and the atmosphere is amazing. It’s a lot of fun and the players know there’s a lot of rivalry between the two sides.
“We played well in the t20 last season and are confident again. We’ve got Rory Hamilton-Brown back at the club and Chris Jordan bowling well, and Dwayne Smith has come back too.”
Sussex have had the better of the teams’ t20 clashes in Sussex since the competition’s launch a decade ago, winning five to Hampshire’s three.
But Hampshire will fancy their chances against their neighbours this year. They’ve had one win and one no-result so far this year, while Sussex have narrowly lost two out of three - both against Surrey.
Briggs conceded the game of skittles hadn’t taught him much of any use ahead of his t20 head-to-head with Styris but joked that he might take up the sport once he’d finished with cricket.
The 22-year-old is looking forward to taking on Sussex and will be hoping for a repeat of his matchwinning spell of four for 17, taken in Hampshire’s 112-run victory stroll at Hove two years ago.
Briggs said: “The t20 games against Sussex are always tough. They’re a good outfit - a good t20 and one-day side - but if we play well, we have a chance.
“There’s a lot of rivalry and the fans enjoy it. We get good crowds at both grounds.”
Briggs is in his fourth season as a regular in the Royals t20 side but still savours the chance to share an arena with experienced internationals like Styris.
He added: “You can look up to and learn from players like him. It’s great to compete and compare yourself with the best players and test yourself.”