Exciting chance to test skills against world champions
It’s not every day that you get to play against the world Test champions, but that is what we have to look forward to as of tomorrow when we host New Zealand in a three-day match at Hove. They are over here for a series against England, the first for Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum as official Test captain and coach respectively, and this is the first warm-up for them.
It’s nice to play against international sides and to have that game this week could be a positive for quite a few boys. It’s always a challenge to test yourself against the best in the world. Obviously, they’re not going to be probably at full strength, as quite a few of them are over in the Indian Premier League, but it’s still going to be some serious players in there and probably a few who might feature in that Test side.
I see this as another opportunity to put in a performance, so I’m pretty excited and looking forward to it.
This match has the potential to provide a bit of a pick-me-up after failing to get over the line on Sunday against Leicestershire in a match we bossed from start to finish. We were always on top and they were always on the back foot and under pressure. But they batted pretty well from 209 for seven, needing another 33 runs to avoid an innings defeat. We gave it everything, but it didn’t help that we lost probably a whole session, 27 overs due to rain. Those are things you can’t control and we gave it a real hard go and it’s just a shame that we couldn’t get over the line.
It feels like a long time ago since we last won in the County Championship [April 2021 versus Glamorgan, spanning 18 matches]. You want to just hit the ground running at the start of a season and win straight away, but I think we're showing progress. You can definitely see we’re learning and we’re getting better. We’re managing to put ourselves in match-winning positions, but now the next step is just nailing the win. It’s not always an easy process when you’ve got a younger squad and people coming in and out. But we’re definitely showing progress and going in the right direction.
You can see the confidence growing in the group. The vibe in the camp is very good at the moment and people are playing some good cricket; everyone’s chipping in. It’s only a matter of time before that first win comes.
It was nice to pick up a few wickets [two for 28 from 18 overs in the first innings and three for 72 from 34 overs in the second innings]. The ball has been coming out nice most of the season. Having a role as one of the main bowlers for this game, I knew I had a big part to play; we just couldn’t quite do it. Had we had those extra overs that were lost to rain, it would've been a different story. Still, it has been nice personally to start well with the ball and take a few wickets.
Each of the wickets in the second innings was important, but getting Wiaan Mulder with the arm ball late on day three to break a 65-run partnership at 173 for five was big, as it set us up to make early inroads on day four. He’s a key player for them, a very good player and, obviously, their overseas professional. So it was nice to get him out that night, and for the second time in the match, so we could push for victory the next day.
I’ve been working with coach Ian Salisbury, a former England leg spinner, on different ways to take wickets on wickets that don’t assist spinners in a big way, and the different angles and different grips, and the ball coming out different ways. It’s nice to see that working and that gaining that knowledge from him is working out.
With the bat I was happy with my 26 made in a 60-run partnership with century-maker Tom Clark. It was disappointing to get out when I did, with the second new ball only ten balls old, but that’s cricket. It was a great catch at second slip by Rishi Patel. Sometimes you edge that past slips, sometimes he drops it and you go on to get 60, 70, maybe even 100. But that’s just how the game goes. It was a pretty decent ball and a very good catch. But let’s keep working hard and luckily in this game there is always another opportunity around the corner. So we just keep working hard, go again this week in training and go again on Friday to try and get some more runs.
We had been a bit reliant in the past month on Cheteshwar Pujara’s rich vein of form, which yielded centuries in four successive matches before the run was ended against Leicestershire. But he was picked up by Tom Clark’s second career hundred in first-class cricket, a commanding 138.
We came together after he and Ollie Carter (72) had put on 140 to rescue us from 96 for three. We just looked to just bat; get our heads down and bat. We had one initial plan, which was to get to the new ball. He played brilliantly again to get another hundred. He batted the whole day, basically, and to see him playing the way he is and getting the runs that he is. Long may it continue. But we just tried to get the new ball, which we did, and unfortunately I couldn’t go on with him throughout that evening session. But he’s batting very well, we put on a nice partnership and they were good runs for the team.
So many things went against us against Leicestershire, starting with Ollie Robinson suffering food poisoning and not being able to bowl more than the opening over in the first innings. We were lucky enough that we didn’t really need him in the first innings, or he wasn’t required, and it gave him a little bit extra rest to try and come back in the second innings when he picked up two wickets, although still nowhere near his best. It’s tough to spin around when you’ve gone down like that, so hopefully he’s back to normal now and can go well against New Zealand with a good enough performance to be involved in the first Test with England on June 2.
• Delray Rawlins was talking to Dexter Smith