The perfect Yardstick
Ian Ward can't wait to see how Michael Yardy's Sussex measure up to Pro40 rivals Durham.
Last Updated: 27/08/09 2:47pm
All eyes will be on Hove on Friday for a match that could go a long way to determining the destiny of the NatWest Pro40 top-flight title.
With Hampshire and Somerset going well in the competition, Durham's trip down to Sussex is an important match given how delicately-poised the division is.
The Sharks will be desperate to rally after their defeat to the Sabres last time out and rediscover the form that took them to the Twenty20 Cup crown and FP Trophy final.
For a long period of time their Holy Grail was the County Championship and as they won it for the first time in 2003, then again in 2006 and 2007, perhaps the county lost some focus on their one-day form - despite the C&G Trophy success of 2006.
This season a lot of credit must go to skipper Michael Yardy who as the man in charge has insisted on a change of emphasis - it's no longer good enough just to fight on one front - while the club has also made some interesting one-day acquisitions.
Ed Joyce has had a fabulous season in all competitions but he has had a stunner in particular in Pro40 and in him and Dwayne Smith - who is a serious one-day player - Sussex have two guys capable of changing any match.
Michael Atherton and Nasser Hussain saw Smith a long time ago when he was playing for the West Indies and were amazed by his talent back then and are surprised that he hasn't really kicked on with his career.
You look at his ability and where the West Indies are in the one-day pecking order and you think 'how can this man be so far away?'
I think he has struggled to find a home and people who believe in him so it's interesting that he's chosen to play for Sussex over the Deccan Chargers in the Champions League. I think Dwayne has now found a club and a set-up that appreciates him and he feels really comfortable as a result.
That can certainly go a long way to bringing the best out of a cricketer and, I guess, sportsmen as a whole.
People often change clubs and find a set-up, system or manager that inspires them. A Formula 1 driver can go from a big, top team to a smaller team and can feel more loved and wanted and up their game as a result. Golfers have changed caddies for the same reason.
There's no question that Steve Harmison has played some stunning cricket for Durham and at times been inconsistent for England, although he is far happier playing for his country at home.
Ashes-winner Harmison has not played in the Pro40 yet this year and has been left out of the Dynamos 12-man squad for this game but when he does come back into the side it will give his county a massive boost.
We all know the qualities he brings to a side, particularly at domestic level. I've interviewed Steve on several occasions about England and we always end up talking about Durham and you can see the passion in his eyes.
I get the impression also that he loves playing cricket with his brother, Ben, much as Adam and Ben Hollioake used to love playing together for Surrey.
Two other players who will be crucial to Durham's chances down at Hove are Phil Mustard and Shivnarine Chanderpaul, while I'd also single out Ian Blackwell, who is Durham's leading wicket-taker in Pro40 and someone who has also scored a lot of important runs.
He's a powerful striker who on a Hove surface that tends to be low and slow and spin-friendly, will have a key role to play. So too has someone like Gareth Breese because as much as we talk about the seam armoury that Durham possess, it could well be the slow bowlers that win them this match.