Fourteen months later than scheduled, Travis Head finally made his debut for Sussex this week.
The Australian left-hander was due to begin his stint at Hove in 2020 but then covid-19 intervened. He finally arrived last week, after the end of the domestic season back home, and after 10 days in quarantine he was in the side to play Northamptonshire in the LV = Insurance County Championship.
He might have hoped for a better scenario to make his debut. Sussex were already 10 for 2 when he walked out to bat at Northampton to face two bowlers, Ben Sanderson and Gareth Berg, who were proving virtually unplayable armed with a new ball seaming and swinging all over the place.
Batsmen around the country have enjoyed the dry pitches during the first month of the season but, after a few days of rain, here were classic early-season English conditions that make top-order batting such a testing examination of technique and temperament.
By the time Head took his pads off after being caught in slips off Berg for nine, Sussex were 25 for 7 and they did well to muster 106. Conditions for batting improved and despite another five wickets for Ollie Robinson the hosts made 441 for 9 in reply. With two days left Sussex still trailed by 181 runs with six second-innings wickets in hand (Head was out for eight to Berg again).
It will need some spectacular lower-order resistance, and rain, to prevent Sussex from losing their third Group C game in a row.
In the long-term, though, Sussex hope they have recruited a reliable overseas player in the mould, perhaps, of Murray Goodwin, whose consistent run-scoring did so much to make them the most successful side in the country at the start of the century.
At 27, Head should be coming into his peak years. He played the most recent of his 19 Tests against India at the end of last year and has also 42 ODIs and 18 T20Is appearances, although he hasn’t played international one-day cricket for three years.
He comes to Sussex after an outstanding domestic season where he was second-highest run-scorer in the Sheffield Shield with 893 runs for South Australia including a career-best 223 against Western Australia and six scores of 50-plus.
Coach Ian Salisbury has been careful to rotate his players to prevent injury and burnout during the opening month of the season, with George Garton the latest to be rested against Northamptonshire.
But Head, who had brief county spells with Worcestershire and Yorkshire earlier in his career, is looking forward to tackling the heavy workload.
He said: “I love playing and competing and I think that’s what I love the most about coming over here. You play so much cricket. There’s so many opportunities to win games so I’m buzzing to be over here.”
The south coast was another attraction for Head and his partner. “Brighton’s a great place. Me and my partner were here for the Ashes and travelled here for the [Australia] A tour and she loved it.
“I’ve got a good connection with [Sussex players] Phil Salt and Rashid Khan from playing for South Australia together and I’ve played against CJ [Chris Jordan] and Jofra Archer so I know a lot of familiar faces.
“We’ve got an exciting young team and I’m looking forward to contributing to that and playing and winning a lot of games of cricket this summer.”
Archer made a successful comeback after finger surgery for Sussex second XI this week and he could well return to Championship action next Thursday [May 13] against Kent at the 1st Central County Ground.
Jordan is back in the UK and quarantining after returning from India where the IPL has been postponed because of the escalating covid-19 crisis and there is a chance that he might be available for Championship action soon.
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