Australia batter Steve Smith could warm up for Ashes with Sussex stint

Sussex are reportedly in pole position to sign Australia’s Steve Smith for a brief county stint ahead of this summer’s Ashes.

The world’s number two Test batter is eager to play first-class cricket in English conditions in preparation for the Baggy Greens’ likely appearance in the World Test Championship final and the subsequent five-match Ashes series.

Smith has never had too much trouble batting in England, averaging just under 60 in the country over the course of 16 Tests.

That rises to more than 65, with six centuries, in 14 Ashes matches, but he is still keen to polish his skills against the Dukes ball.

Hove could be Steve Smith's temporary home in May.
Hove could be Steve Smith’s temporary home in May (Steven Paston/PA)

While that could prove a boost to Australia’s hopes of winning the urn behind enemy lines for the first time since 2001, Smith’s availability has led to plenty of interest.

Sussex finished second bottom in Division Two of the LV= Insurance County Championship in 2022 but have an overseas vacancy following an injury to West Indies seamer Jayden Seales.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Hove was Smith’s likeliest destination, with three games in May thought to be on the cards as part of their offer.

England captain Ben Stokes admitted during the December tour of Pakistan that he would prefer Smith not to have the benefit of additional acclimatisation time but former England assistant coach Paul Farbrace, now in charge of Sussex, appears to have put any partisan national allegiance to one side in a bid to land an A-list star in his first season at the helm.

Sussex already have India’s Cheteshwar Pujara signed up but are also looking at attracting a new seam bowling import to pick up from Seales.

Mo Bobat, performance director at the ECB, took a pragmatic view on Smith’s potential arrival in the shires but suggested that reciprocal arrangements would be welcome.

“Any good player coming to our domestic system will raise the standard of it. In many ways it’s good,” he said.

“It’s good for our bowlers to bowl at Steve Smith. It’s good for young batters to bat with him. There is upside. Specifically with the Ashes, you could say it helps him prepare and that could be a disadvantage to England. But I don’t spend too much time thinking about that. We just try to control what we can do.

“At times it’s disappointing that our players aren’t afforded the same opportunities overseas. I’d love to get more of our players in first-class cricket overseas. It’s notoriously difficult.”