Delray Rawlins named in Sussex’s Vitality Blast squad
Delray Rawlins has been named in Sussex’s 14-man squad for their opening two matches in the Vitality Blast T20 tournament today and tomorrow against Gloucestershire and Hampshire.
Rawlins was dropped for their LV= Insurance County Championship match against Yorkshire, which saw his replacement, Danial Ibrahim, become the youngest player to score a half-century in the 131-year history of the County Championship at the age of 16 and 299 days. Ibrahim scored 55 in the first innings, but Sussex lost the match by an innings and 30 runs.
Rawlins, who went to play in the Second XI’s T20 matches, helped the team beat Kent by four wickets and Middlesex by 42 runs when he scored 34 and took two for 34.
Earlier this week the Seconds maintained their 100 per cent record in the T20 competition with victory over Surrey by four wickets, with Rawlins the second high scorer with 24 as they passed Surrey’s 211 for seven.
Also in the squad for the Vitality Blast matches is 16-year-old leg spinner, Archie Lenham, who, if he plays, will become the second-youngest player in Blast history after Hamidullah Qadri, who played for Derbyshire in 2017.
“It’s great for Archie,” said James Kirtley, the Sussex T20 head coach, on the club’s official website. “He’s another of our young players who has impressed, and he has been one of our top spinners during our preparation.
“We’ve always got an eye on the future, but Archie’s promotion to the squad has come a bit sooner than expected. He’s delivered, however.
“Luke [Wright] and I are very comfortable with Archie in and around the team and he’s given himself the chance of playing.”
Wright will captain the Sharks who also have Travis Head of Australia and David Wiese of South Africa as their overseas players.
Today, the Sharks are in Bristol for their match against Gloucestershire, after which they will return to the 1st Century County Ground for tomorrow’s clash with Hampshire Hawks under lights.
Lenham is a student at Bede’s School, which Rawlins also attended when he went to England in 2014. If Lenham does make his Sussex debut this weekend he will be following in the footsteps of his father Neil and grandfather Les who also played county cricket.
“It will be hugely exciting for him and probably also for his family,” coach Kirtley said. “There aren’t many [families] that can boast three generations of professional cricketers.”
Also hoping for debuts for Sussex are Oli Carter and Henry Crocombe, while the other 12 players in the Sharks squad for the two matches boast 1,676 professional T20 appearances between them.
“The skill level of these players I’ve been watching in our practices and warm-up matches is just brilliant,” Kirtley said of the senior players in the squad.
“Watching Chris Jordan or Tymal Mills running in at batsmen or David Wiese or Ravi Bopara clearing the boundary has been hugely exciting and hugely entertaining and it will be brilliant for everyone coming to the games to get to see it as well.”
Jordan looks likely to make his first appearance of the season for the first team, as could Phil Salt who has recovered from a foot injury.
“We’ve given ’Salty’ a clear route back to cricket with a focus on T20, which has worked well for him,” Kirtley explained. “He’s really excited to put in a big performance early in the campaign.”
The main preparation for the shorter version of the game came with the Second XI T20 competition where, apart from an abandoned match against Essex, Sussex have won all their matches against opponents containing first team regulars.
“We’ve come up against challenging opposition and we’ve been winning,” Kirtley said. “I’ve told the group that we shouldn’t underestimate that and the value of the momentum and belief you get from winning.
“We’ve been winning with almost every single person that’s played putting in a performance at some point.”
Both Kirtley and captain Wright believe success for the team will depend on a complete squad effort, not just those in the initial 14-man squad.
“Luke spoke to the team on Tuesday morning and said, ’if we’re going to win this tournament, we’re going to need the full squad’,” Kirtley said.
“It’s not just about the 14 players named for these opening games and I’m sure there will be people who aren’t in this squad that will play a part later in the competition. It’s hugely exciting to know we’ve got the calibre of players on our staff that can come in and make a difference.”
The coach expects both matches to be tough encounters. “We’ve got some clear ideas for the game against Gloucestershire,” he said.
“We’ve got to deliver there first, and then we come back to Hove for the duel with Hampshire.
“There’s fine cricketers across the country and the Blast is a very good competition. Hopefully, we can steal a match early in the campaign and gain some momentum.
“It will be huge for a number of our players to play in front of crowds again and get back to entertaining.”