A good week to retool ahead of big final push
The last big push is upon us at Sussex before the winter break, starting on Monday with the return to red-ball cricket in the County Championship at home to Worcestershire. We had a couple of days off after losing the Royal London One-Day Cup semi-final, then got back into red-ball practice.
Obviously, the red-ball skills are a little bit different, and I was due to be on the trip to Newport with the second XI. I was quite keen to have a bit of a hit-out before jumping back into the championship game on Monday. But I sat down with the coaches, as a few of us did, and came to the conclusion that it was probably better to just chill because we have played a lot of cricket. So instead we’re going to hit the last month in September fresh and try and get three big results, with other matches coming against Durham away and Glamorgan at home.
It has been a nice week. I actually feel like the break has done me some good. I watched a bit of footage and was trying to work something out in my technique, which might have changed during the one-day competition. I feel like I’m getting there; if not, close to back to where I was when we went into the latest break from the four-day game.
I would be the first to say that the range of shots in white-ball cricket is getting bigger and bigger, and people are playing a lot more extravagant shots. But I think the basics still remain when you’re doing things like that, and that’s where you have to be in red-ball. Your basics have to be up to par for as long as possible — and that doesn’t just go individually; it goes as a team.
So that’s been the focus for the past week and a half, and I know the boys in Newport have had that sort of focus as well. Hopefully, when they get back, we can have three days or the weekend of training where we can really hone in on it together as a group and hit the ground running on Monday hard.
If we can finish off the season with two out of three positive results, although I feel we can get three out of three with the momentum that we had from the Royal London One-Day Cup, it would make the season feel a lot more successful. We’re a young group and have had a lot to learn over these past four or five months. If we can finish September with a bang with two or three wins, it’s definitely a big positive ending the season and when we come back or kick back into things in the winter, I think it will be a different feel and probably more of a buzz, as the boys would probably believe that we are more than good enough to win games.
While our domestic season is coming to its end, there is so much cricket still going on around the world. At the heart of that is franchise cricket, with more and more franchise leagues reshaping the global landscape.
Franchise cricket is becoming the thing for a lot of guys. You’ve seen guys not playing first-class cricket any more and literally travelling around the world playing in T20 and T10 leagues. If you’re a specialist in the white-ball format and can get those gigs around the world, then I seen no problem in it, really. More people are pumping money into cricket all around the world, some owners are doubling and tripling up on teams in different franchise leagues. At the end of the day, cricket's, cricket. If you can get yourself in, then why not?
From the Bermuda perspective, you would like to think that in the coming years that we can have a few guys participating in those leagues, as it would only help our cricket and our national team to progress. Guys being around different big players and learning different things and gaining different experiences would only help them, bringing that back to the Bermuda squad.
We have another tournament coming up next spring, the T20 World Cup Qualifier, and we are in danger again of going in undercooked. This issue obviously comes up every time when we’re going away, and it’s obviously not going to stop coming up unless we can find a proper solution for it. It is very, very difficult to go into an international tournament against teams who have players who play 12 months a year while we have not played any competitive cricket at all. Obviously, we’re a talented group of players but that can only take you so far; you need that match experience, you need that match intensity, the repetition of being put under pressure in certain situations. We haven’t had that enough, not just recently but in the last five or six years. So hopefully we can figure that out and get some match practice in and maybe a couple of camps before that tournament. It’s a big tournament and I feel like we’ve got a real chance to go to get through again.
Internationally, it is exciting to see my former England Under-19 team-mate Harry Brook get called up to the senior team for the deciding final match of the series against South Africa. It’s a huge blow losing [Jonny] Bairstow, who has been England’s best batter in all formats, but Brooky gets his opportunity as he's been in a lot of form. I’ve been lucky enough to play cricket with him and against him, and I’ve got no doubt that he has the game to be successful.
Not just myself but I know everyone around the country will be excited to see the final Test. The first day was rained out yesterday but it this is anything like the previous two matches, five full days may not be needed in any event — although I expect the Oval pitch to be flatter than what was found at Lord’s and d If they come off with a win it will be a very successful summer of Test cricket for England and something for them to build on in the winter.
Just as Brook gets his chance because of a freak accident suffered by Bairstow, so too does Alex Hales, who has been recalled from the wilderness after two years out of the picture for using recreational drugs. It’s hard to look past his numbers in white-ball cricket, I think anywhere in the world. If you look at his franchise numbers, his numbers here locally, they are probably as good as it gets. So it was pretty hard to overlook him with the injuries that have gone on and with a couple of guys out of form. He’s warranted his place again and it is pretty exciting to see him back in England colours. Hopefully he can carry that form as the main man in The Hundred with new champions Trent Rockets and go win some games in the World Cup for England.
• Delray Rawlins was talking to Dexter Smith