County record holder Coles signs Sussex deal

Sussex Cricket's youngest player James Coles has signed a contract. The 17-year-old Magdalen College School, Oxford pupil will join the squad at the end of the school year.

Tuesday, 11th May 2021, 7:45 pm
Updated Tuesday, 11th May 2021, 7:48 pm
James Coles is delighted to sign a Sussex contract / Picture: Sussex Cricket

The all-rounder became Sussex’s youngest first-class player when he made his debut against Surrey in the Bob Willis Trophy last summer at the age of 16 years and 157 days. He took three wickets in the match with his left-arm spin, including those of England players Rory Burns and Ben Foakes, and scored 21 runs.

A right-handed batsman, Coles is a product of Sussex Cricket’s player development partnership with the Oxfordshire Cricket Board that has been in place since 2013. He is the first player from the programme to sign a professional contract.

The joint Sussex/Oxfordshire Academy is based at Magdalen College School and led by Partnership Support Coach Alan Duncan who works closely with Sussex’s Academy Director Richard Halsall in developing young cricketers from the region. The school’s support has been invaluable in allowing the partnership to flourish.

Coles has been part of the Sussex Cricket pathway since he was 12 and joined the Academy in 2019. He has been a consistently high performer in age group cricket for Oxfordshire, Sussex and regional teams.

As well as making his first-class debut last summer, Coles also scored a century against Buckinghamshire on his senior debut for Oxfordshire and was part of an England Young Lions South team that also contained fellow Sussex first-year professionals Jamie Atkins, Henry Crocombe and Sean Hunt.

Reacting to his first contract, Coles said, “I was over the moon when Keith [Greenfield, Sussex Cricket’s performance director] told me I was being offered a deal as it’s always been my dream to sign a cricket contract from such a young age.

“For it to finally happen, I couldn’t be more grateful. Now, I just hope to have a couple good seasons and become a consistent first team player.”

Sussex’s Championship and one-day head coach Ian Salisbury said, “After he became Sussex’s youngest ever debutant, we are delighted to sign this talented young man. He definitely fits our strategy of signing young talent that will bring sustained success to Sussex in the future. Huge credit must also go to Oxfordshire and the partnership we have with them.”

Sussex’s T20 head coach James Kirtley added, “James is another highly talented youngster. He is highly regarded by Oxfordshire and by Sussex but equally well-regarded by those in the Young Lions set up. I know he impressed many at Loughborough during some of the training weekends.

“Not only is James a high-quality top order batter but he offers some good quality left-arm spin bowling. We very much see James as part of the Sussex future and our commitment to build this team is shown by the offer of this contract. We really believe that James can be part of the success story we are trying build.”