SYDNEY: Steven Smith is moving closer to a County Championship deal with Sussex in pole position to acquire the Australia batter on a short-term deal for the start of the 2023 season. A report in the Sydney Morning Herald on Thursday cited Hove as the likeliest destination for Smith, who has spent the last few months in discussions with county sides over a possible stint of “three or four games”. Smith was ideally looking at joining a club in Division One, with Kent seen as an ideal given his links to the county following a stint in club cricket at Sevenoaks Vine CC in 2007, which led to a one-off second-team appearance at Canterbury. However, the club’s situation and Smith’s availability did not align. No contract has yet been signed with Sussex, who play in Division Two, with a decision expected in the coming week. The short-term deal would allow Smith to acclimatise to English conditions ahead of Australia’s likely appearance in the World Test Championship final at the Kia Oval in June, along with the Ashes series that follows, beginning at Edgbaston on June 16. The 33-year-old is forgoing this year’s IPL, a period he will use to return home after Australia’s four-Test series in India which finishes in the middle of March. This would be Smith’s first red-ball experience in county cricket, and the pull of a player of his undoubted quality is all too clear. He averages 60.89 in Test cricket — a figure that only drops to 59.55 across 16 Tests in England — and has 30 centuries in the format. His previous dalliance with the English domestic game came in 2010 when he played five T20 matches for Worcestershire.