Steve Smith is in discussions over a deal to play for Sussex in the runup to Australia’s attempt to win both the World Test Championship and a first Ashes series in England since 2001.
Smith is yet to play in the County Championship but has not found this a hindrance in the past, having made six of his 30 Test centuries in England and delivered a staggering 774 runs during the 2-2 series draw four years ago.
The 33-year-old is keen to spend more time acclimatising to conditions this time, however, with a source at Division Two Sussex confirming a report in the Sydney Morning Herald that talks over a short-term deal are “advanced”.
Smith has stated publicly he may be able to play “three or four” county matches before Australia’s expected appearance in the World Test Championship final at the Oval in early June, the exact start date for which is yet to be confirmed.
Attention will then quickly switch to the Ashes series that gets under way at Edgbaston on 16 July and is a mouthwatering prospect given England’s remarkable resurgence since their 4-0 defeat in Australia in 2020-21.
Ben Stokes, England Test captain and the catalyst for their run of nine wins in 10 matches, expressed mild disapproval at a county deal for Smith when this possibility was put to him during his side’s recent tour of Pakistan.
Stokes said: “It’s good for the county game to see that players of Steve’s calibre want to come over and play. But, I don’t know – it’s one of those where you probably prefer them not to get any game time out here before the Ashes. At the same time, it is what it is.”
Smith will not be the only Australian afforded this chance, with Marnus Labuschagne, ranked No 1 in the Test batting rankings, already due to return to Glamorgan along with seamer Michael Neser. Opener Marcus Harris has also signed for a second season at Gloucestershire.
If Smith does sign for Sussex, he will play alongside India’s Cheteshwar Pujara. West Indian quick Jayden Seales was due to be the club’s second overseas player for the first three months of the season but has seen this spell scuppered by injury.