By Connor Steel
HAMPSHIRE CRICKET have announced the signing of former Sussex captain and wicket-keeper batter Ben Brown on a two-year contract across all domestic formats, thus ending the 33-year old’s two decade tenure with the Hove-based outfit after rising through their academy.
The Crawley-born cricketer made his debut for Sussex at first class level versus Sri Lanka A in a three-day warm up match in July 2007, scoring forty six runs off 25 balls including six fours and one maximum in a rain-affected stalemate played at the County Cricket Ground in Hove.
However his debuts at one day and twenty-20 level were less successful, scoring just four runs in his first List A appearance versus Nottinghamshire at Hove in September 2007. The following summer he scored just six on his debut in the shortest cricket format, Sussex’s batting eventually losing by fifty runs versus Kent.
Following his debuts the batter played a spell with the England Under-19 side and gained further red ball experience with Surrey’s second side over the next two seasons, returning to the first team in 2010. His high point of this summer was a century versus Derbyshire in Sussex’s away victory at the Incora County Ground in just his seventh first class appearance.
Brown became an ever-present player in the County Championship as a batsman and wicketkeeper from 2011 because of Matt Prior’s strong involvement with England international cricket, alongside the move of Matt Hood to Yorkshire that summer. But he didn’t waste this opportunity and had an average batting score of over forty runs until the start of the 2014 campaign.
Despite a career best of 163 versus Durham at Hove, Brown’s batting average declined after a difficult season and the pressure looked to be on the wicketkeeper amidst rumours that he would lose his place in the Sussex side; particularly as his teammate Prior was replaced by England star Jos Butler after the whitewash defeat in the Ashes. Instead the opposite happened as the international star picked up an Achilles injury that sadly ended his cricketing career.
Brown then signed a long-term contract and continued to regain high batting averages during the 2015 campaign, improving his reputation of one of the best wicket-keeper batters in England and faced calls to be put into the England set-up. Although this didn’t happen the player was key to his side with over one thousand runs scored; resulting in the batter’s appointment as vice-captain for the 2016 season.
Two further campaigns followed for Brown who continued to provide lower order runs and provided consistency across all formats, which saw him become captain in 2018 after eleven years at the club. This form continued for Sussex in 2019 as the county finished sixth in the County Championship and reached the quarter finals of the Vitality Blast, whilst 2020 gave limited opportunities to impress due to Covid-19 rules.
And when the domestic cricketing summer returned to normal in 2021, Brown saved his best campaign for last; averaging 51.36 with the bat and hit four centuries across all 12 County Championship matches. His efforts however didn’t stop Sussex from finishing rock bottom of the Championship format that had been divided into localised groups before forming a second points system.
Becoming unsettled Brown decided to leave Sussex in December, ending a fourteen-year career with his native county. In this time he made 318 appearances across all formats, scoring 10,843 runs, taking 543 catches, and executing forty stumpings before the stumps.
Contract talks quickly began with Hampshire and the announcement was made online earlier this week; the county hoping to benefit from an experienced player both with the gloves and bat this campaign. It marks the first signature at the Ageas Bowl for the 2022 season as they look to boost their Championship title ambitions following their heartbreaking loss on the final day to Lancashire back in September.
Hampshire Director of Cricket Giles White said: “Ben’s arrival is exciting news for the Club and we are looking forward to welcoming him to the group next week. He brings many qualities and has a particularly impressive red-ball record; we are confident he’ll be a great addition to the squad.”
The new signing also seemed in good spirits when talking about the move, saying: “I am extremely proud and humbled to sign for Hampshire To be joining such a talented playing squad and to have the opportunity to work with the club’s impressive coaching staff is a privilege. “I’m looking forward to being able to call the Ageas Bowl my home ground and am hugely grateful to everyone at Hampshire for the opportunity to do so.”
PICTURED BY ALARMY: Ben Brown batting for Sussex in County Championship with fine shot for boundary