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A home semi-final means the world to us

Happy days: Sussex head into the Royal London One-Day Cup semi-final next week after a succession of record-breaking performances (Photograph courtesy of Sussex County Cricket Club)

We are getting into the business end of the season and the anticipation for a potential final is sky-high after a great week for the lads at Sussex in the Royal London One-Day Cup. Getting a home semi-final doesn’t come around often. And when you do get them, I think you got to obviously cherish those moments and remember the hard work that’s gone in.

We started off the group stage with a loss and it could have easily just become a trend where we were losing. But we turned it around as a group. Individuals stepped up at different times with both bat and bowl, and we thoroughly deserved in the end to finish top and get that home semi-final.

Once we built up a little momentum, we were able to get on a roll and everyone is putting their hands up, with records falling left, right and centre. That’s what the coaches are asking from us — keep challenging ourselves to improve, keep pushing each other, keep pushing boundaries, keep trying to break records. In the past week or two, we had three highest-ever scores for Sussex. That just shows where we are as a group, how positive we’ve been with the bat and even with the ball. There have been quite a few career-bests for a lot of our bowlers; everyone’s having fun and enjoying the cricket, and it’s just showing with the results that are coming.

Coming in at No 6 with our top order firing on all cylinders, there have not been too many opportunities with the bat, even though I did enjoy smashing that quick fifty last Friday against Somerset. But it has been with the ball that I have been having a good time. It’s been nice to have a big role with the ball, not just in this tournament, but throughout the whole season, really. I’ve bowled quite a lot and have been bowling really well; just trying to stick it in some good areas, spin it hard and just trying to be as consistent as possible with the areas that I'm bowling.

One of my three wickets on Tuesday ragged a fair ways, which was quite pleasing. That wicket was quite pleasant to bowl on as a spinner; there was a lot of turn out there. I probably didn’t bowl as well as I would’ve wanted to, probably got too excited with the conditions. But towards the back end of my spell, I went back to just trying to fire it in nice and straight and managed to pick up a few wickets.

Having a home semi-final is massive for us, especially as a group. We went four from four in the group stage, and obviously we know the conditions playing at Hove can be very, very different to a lot of the grounds. It quite often can be a game of two different ends, up and down the hill. Knowing our conditions and also having a crowd behind us is a big lift. We’ve had some pretty big crowds; winning helps. There has already been quite a lot of talk from people to get tickets for Tuesday. If that isn’t something to get you up as a player and try to win games of cricket for Sussex, then I don't know what will.

We have no real preference for who we face out of Nottinghamshire and Lancashire, but we do have form in this competition with Notts and it would be good to get one over on them. That was our first game in group A three weeks ago, a defeat when we were very tentative in everything that we did, with both bat and bowl. They probably got 30 or 40 too many at the end or just throughout where we could have been a bit smarter with fields, how we bowled. And then with the bat, we were quite tentative up top and let them dictate the game rather than us putting pressure back on them. Now, with the form that all of our batters are in, really, we would definitely see a big turnaround and a big change. I think it would be a completely different game and hopefully we can come out on top.

The other benefit of being in the semi-final straight off is getting a couple of days off. Anytime you get days off back-to-back is a massive bonus because it doesn’t come around too often in the middle of the season. I think you can say we warranted it, with all the cricket that we’re playing [eight matches in three weeks] and the travelling that we’ve been doing, so, it’s nice to kick your feet up and chill out for a bit.

We had a golf day as a team with some of the sponsors on Wednesday and that was quite fun. With Covid, we haven’t been able to do these things, so it has been nice to get back to things that seemed quite regular in previous seasons and just unwind, have a bit of fun, have a little laugh on the golf course and just chill out with each other again.

It will be back to work on Friday before we go hard on the weekend and then on Monday before the game on Tuesday. We will definitely have an eye on the semi-finals; it’s important to know who we're playing. If you can get some sort of head start, that always helps. But I think everyone will have an eye just to see how the teams are going about things; and stay one step ahead.

We will also be rooting for Ollie Robinson on his recall to the England starting XI for the second Test against South Africa at Old Trafford. His record speaks for itself. Going into this Test, he has 39 wickets at 21.28 in only nine matches. If you ask anyone, “Would you take that record in your first ten to 15 Tests?”, I think quite a few people would say yes. He definitely warrants his spot in the team, he’s got himself back fit, he’s worked very hard and now hopefully we can see him take some wickets again for England.

It has not escaped attention the spitting incident that took place in Bermuda over the weekend. While it is unfair to pass judgment from so many thousands of miles away, this episode should serve as a caution to my fellow Bermudians, some of whom are international team-mates, that conduct on the pitch must be of the highest standard — especially when sponsors are involved, as is the case for the new Twenty20 tournament where $25,000 has been provided.

Sponsors are massive in everything, not just in sport. We see around the world with some athletes sometimes that when they get themselves in a bit of trouble, the sponsor of cut ties straight away. Most places won’t want to be associated with anything that might impact them negatively, but sometimes things happen. You’ve just got to make sure that you keep things as clean as possible.

The sponsor investing that amount of money is huge and can be huge for cricket in Bermuda. That could be just a start with them and could be added to by a few other companies. It’s a big positive to have someone invest in our game, which has been lacking the past few years. Hopefully, there can be quite a few more people that invest in it and we can see this sport grow to somewhere near to where it used to be.

But the clubs and players have to play to their part.

• Delray Rawlins was talking to Dexter Smith

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Published August 26, 2022 at 7:46 am (Updated August 26, 2022 at 7:46 am)

A home semi-final means the world to us

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