Positives to take from difficult opening loss
It was a difficult one to take losing our first match in the LV= Insurance County Championship at home to Nottinghamshire on Sunday after being in the box seat for the majority of the match. But that’s cricket: someone goes and gets a big score, it ebbs and flows your way and then whoever realises that match-winning moment and takes it upon themselves to take it by the scruff of the neck normally comes out on top — and they’ve done that better than us.
They’re favourites to win the second division and have a very, very senior squad. They nearly won the championship overall last year with the temporary three-group format but have to play in the second division because that’s where they would have been at the time Covid struck and forced a restructuring when we finally resumed.
It’s no surprise that they’re favourites now. Mull (Notts captain Steven Mullaney) played for well for his 192. It didn’t help that he got dropped a couple of times, on 46 and 86, but that’s how cricket goes. It’s always one of those things. It’s like, if someone would have hung on to this or someone hung on to that ... But credit to him, he played well and he batted his team into a position to win.
Yes, it was a ten-wicket defeat but for 2½ days it was pretty even and you could say we were in the driving seat. It may be a bit cliché, but there were many positives to take from this for our young squad.
I couldn’t be happier for 21-year-old Tom Clark on scoring his maiden first-class hundred in the first innings. He’s worked hard in the winter and worked a few things out in his game, and he showed how good of a player he really is. Again, for him, it’s something for him to build on, sort of a blueprint of how he wants to go about his cricket, and hopefully he can get a couple more and help us win some games.
Personally, it was disappointing to get out on 49 in the first innings right at the close of play. But if someone had said to me would you take 49 in the first innings of the season, I would say yes. It’s fine margins in cricket. The ball didn’t bounce as much as I felt it could have. But another day it bounces and I knock it out to cover for one — and day two could’ve been a lot different for me. I was still pleased with getting runs in. I felt good; I was moving well.
I felt like I bowled pretty well also to pick up the two wickets (for 113 runs in 30 overs). It’s a different situation to bowl in, as they were just building a partnership (Mullaney and Tom Moore, who made 43, added 96 for the sixth wicket) and I just tried to jam it in and go at two an over. It was nice to get the first wicket and break the partnership. I thought I bowled well, and then again I came on at the end when they were taking over and were probably close to a declaration. So it was just about going for as little runs as possible and being smart with setting my fields. I worked really hard in the winter on that part of my game, so to see a reward fairly soon was quite pleasing.
First-choice spinner Jack Carson will probably be back from pre-season knee surgery within the next month. It’s nice to get a couple of wickets in, and hopefully I can keep getting wickets, so even when he is back, the captain has confidence in me and can still chuck me the ball and I can keep contributing.
We battled hard to save the game on the final day after Notts had taken a 159-run lead on first innings. They were bolstered by having removed Tom Haines, our captain and leading scorer from 2021, just before the close of day three — and we knew we would likely bat with only ten men after the shoulder injury suffered by young Danial Ibrahim.
It’s unfortunate for Danny, but again, it’s one of those things that’s part of sport. It’s never nice to see one of your mates go down. He just went to stop one in the field and I guess he landed awkwardly on his shoulder. He came up an over later and was in some serious pain. Hopefully, he can rest up and get back quick.
He is added to a list of players we have out, including Jack, George Garton with long Covid and Fynn Hudson-Prentice, who is coming off a stress fracture of the back. It’s tough to see, especially when they’re members of your team. It’s tough to see them down and not being able to play. But hopefully those boys can come back and show what good players they are and what effect they have on the squad. Hopefully, it’s not too long and we can see them back sooner rather than later.
On the plus side, overseas player Cheteshwar Pujara is with us after sorting some visa issues and he’ll play today against Derbyshire. I think Mohammad Rizwan may be available as well. To have both of them available is going to be something else, really positive for us — two senior players, two internationals at the top of their game. Hopefully, we can learn from them and they can help us push to win some games.
I’ve played up there at the County Ground in Derby once before. We came out on the wrong side of what was an interesting game. It felt like whoever was the bravest to try and take the game on was going to win it, and they came out on top. They came out, played a few shots and put us under pressure.
But this time around is a bit different. We can add Pujara and Rizwan to our batting line-up, and building on what we achieved last week I think it’s going to be something special. Hopefully we can put it right this week and get a positive result.
• Delray Rawlins was talking to Dexter Smith