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Quiet start to year for ambitious Rawlins | The Royal Gazette:Bermuda Cricket

Dexter Smith, Head of Sport

Published Apr 4, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated Apr 4, 2019 at 10:21 am)

Minor impact: Bermudian all-rounder Delray Rawlins will be hoping to make a bigger impression in county cricket this season (Photograph courtesy of Sussex County Cricket Club)

Minor impact: Bermudian all-rounder Delray Rawlins will be hoping to make a bigger impression in county cricket this season (Photograph courtesy of Sussex County Cricket Club)

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A slow start to the English summer with Sussex County Cricket Club has meant that Delray Rawlins faces the prospect of another campaign in the second XI.

The 21-year-old Bermudian, who retains ambitions of breaking into the England set-up, struggled to make an impression on a preseason tour to South Africa last month and has been left out of all Sussex’s warm-up matches, save for a bit-part appearance in a 14-a-side two-day friendly against Kent in which he was not designated among the 11 batsmen, but did some fielding and bowled two wicketless overs.

This marked the third fixture against Kent in short order, as they were the opponents in the first two tour matches in Cape Town.

There, Sussex swept the board on an impressive four-match tour. But while the likes of Stiaan van Zyl, Ollie Robinson, Michael Burgess — not to mention fast bowler George Garton smashing an 83-ball 114 batting at No 7 — advanced their claims to be fixtures in coach Jason Gillespie’s first-team squad, Rawlins returned slim pickings.

He opened with a duck in the first of the double-header against Kent but earlier took a solitary wicket that triggered a collapse, proving crucial in a four-wicket victory at Stellenbosch University grounds.

The next day Sussex beat Kent by six runs in a 40-over, 12-a-side game at Claremont Cricket Club, with Rawlins making a tour-high 17 and bowling three overs for 14 runs.

That was as good as it got for the left-handed all-rounder, as he made six and was none for 22 off six overs in a 57-run win over Durham University at the same venue, and then in the tour finale scored four and was none for 29 from eight overs as Sussex saw off a Western Province Invitational XI by a resounding 195 runs at the Vineyard Ground.

Back in England, Sussex have played two-day matches against Hampshire and Kent, and on Tuesday concluded a three-day affair against Cardiff MCCU.

Rawlins was not involved and Gillespie has already intimated that the team chosen for the university match is pretty much who will start tomorrow in the season-opening Specsavers County Championship second division match at home to Leicestershire.

Rawlins has played in a total of seven first-class matches since signing professional terms in 2017 and is still viewed by Sussex as a prospect, but he has been overtaken in the quest to don a senior England shirt, including by county team-mate Jofra Archer, a Barbadian bowling all-rounder, whose eligibility has been fast-tracked so he can be in contention for World Cup selection this summer.

Despite taking a somewhat backward step at first-class level in 2018, having played four championship matches the season before, Rawlins gained national attention for his exploits in the Vitality Blast t20 tournament. Sussex Sharks reached Finals Day for the first time since 2012 and Rawlins’s popularity surged to such an extent that he was forced to turn off notifications to his Twitter account — even commentators Michael Atherton and Nasser Hussain, both former England captains, could be said to be fans.

New Bermuda coach Herbie Bascome is getting together with prospective squad members tomorrow for an unofficial meet-and-greet. The coach is hopeful of “putting the best players” on the park for Bermuda when the island hosts the final ICC Americas World T20 Qualifier in August, but as yet there has been no word on whether the services of Rawlins or the equally hard-hitting Kamau Leverock will be sought.

Rawlins, 22 in September, is scheduled to be involved in the fat end of Sussex’s domestic Twenty20 campaign at that time of year, while Leverock distanced himself indefinitely from the international scene in the wake of disciplinary action taken against him at the World Cricket League Division Four tournament in Malaysia last year.

United States and Canada are actively involved in high-level ICC competition at time of writing and will be massive favourites to advance at the expense of Bermuda and Cayman Islands. Home-field advantage and the inclusion of Rawlins and Leverock, as well as “the best” of the domestically based players, are seen as central to Bermuda’s prospects of upsetting the odds.

The delay in the succession plan after the departure late last year of chief executive Neil Speight, the second longest-serving administrator in top-level sport locally after David Sabir at the Bermuda Football Association, has not helped.

Bermuda Cricket Board president Lloyd Smith confirmed yesterday that a shortlist had been arrived at, but could offer no guarantee that the executive director would be in place before the 2019 season starts — believed to be the weekend of April 26 to 28.

Adding to cricket’s administrative minefield has been the resignation of Fiona Holmes, the fund development and marketing manager, who is serving out a one-month notice period.

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