Sussex captain Ben Brown believes that his side can channel the disappointment of missing out on honours and come back stronger in 2019.
It was a “nearly” campaign for the county, with defeat in the final of the Vitality Blast and a third-place finish in Division Two of the Specsavers County Championship.
Three successive away defeats did for their promotion challenge but Brown says Sussex have made “huge strides” under head coach Jason Gillespie, who returns next March for his second season at Hove.
Brown said: “The club have made huge strides and personally I have enjoyed my first full season of captaincy, even if we came up a bit short at the end.
“Jason is so different to the coaches we’ve had in the past and I don’t mean that disrespectfully to the other coaches. He’s given a lot of ownership over to the players and the more pressure we were under during the season the better the mood off the field was.
“Jason has been very deliberate about that and we have all really enjoyed our cricket. The team has bonded well and it’s an exciting team to play in.”
Ollie Robinson, who finished with 75 wickets, Phil Salt, Harry Finch and Michael Burgess all made progress but Brown admits the absence of Stiaan van Zyl, who missed much of the season because of a knee injury, turned out to be crucial.
In his absence, it was often left to Brown – their leading Championship scorer with 912 runs – and the lower order to get Sussex out of trouble, although he says van Zyl’s absence wasn’t the only factor.
He added: “His experience has been sorely missed but people need to appreciate how tough it is for top orders when you play most of your Championship cricket in April, May and September.
“The ball has darted around all over the place. Some of the cricket on the circuit has been poor this year and some of the pitches we’ve played on away from home have been awful really. There’s been too much lottery cricket.
“Something has to be done. People always use the excuse that it’s early or late season but there are bigger issues that need to be looked at. We don’t use the heavy roller anymore and how are we meant to develop spinners playing at opposite ends of the season?”
Whether Sussex are able to add to their squad remains to be seen. Brown is concerned about the heavy workload his bowlers had to shoulder this year. In contrast to Robinson, George Garton and Stuart Whittingham only played one Championship game each.
“We probably need a bit more strength in depth to cope with the volume of cricket,” added Brown. “When we played Warwickshire some of their seamers had only played seven or eight games and we’ve got Ollie Robinson, who had a fantastic season but has ended up bowling a huge amount.
“We need more guys to step up next year as the likes of Phil Salt, Tom Haines and Michael Burgess have done this season. But there have been huge positives and I am delighted with everyone’s efforts and the progress we’ve made on and off the field.
“It is tough to get out of Division Two. There are a lot of good teams but I’m hoping the experiences we’ve had this year will stand us in good stead in 2019.”