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Death, taxes and English rain

Soggy English weather has been the story of the early season (Photograph courtesy of Sussex County Cricket Club)

There are many positives to playing cricket in England — the fantastic grounds, the culture, playing with and against high-quality performers from here and overseas. But there is one constant you must come to grips with at this time of year — the weather.

Rain and wet conditions have affected so much of the early season, including our Second XI Championship match with Middlesex, which was abandoned yesterday when no play was possible for the third straight day of our scheduled four-day match.

So what do we as cricketers do while waiting either for the rain to stop or for the conditions to be deemed playable? If you think it is frustrating when it is raining, it is even more so when it is not, but either the umpires or groundstaff keep you off the pitch waiting for the surface to dry sufficiently. And this early in the season, meticulous groundstaff are very protective of their wickets and outfields — wanting them to hold up deep into the summer — so the likelihood of getting back on even when the rain has stopped is remote.

Sometimes you can prepare for rain by looking at the forecast, but other times it is quite unexpected and the hardest bit of it is the uncertainty of when it might stop, when you might get back on, how it might affect the outcome of the game.

It’s more a case of always trying to be as prepared as you can in terms of your game and also being prepared mentally for when the umpires make the decision to say we’re going to be on in an hour or we’re going to be on in half an hour or we have this many overs left. Especially in one-day games, the run chase or whatever might change in Duckworth-Lewis-Stern. But the main thing is to be mentally prepared so that when that moment comes, you can switch on and be ready to go.

Times have definitely changed in terms of how cricketers pass the time waiting on rain delays. In the old days, they mostly played cards or dominoes, read books or the newspaper, but obviously nowadays with technology, if there’s any sort of other sport going on, there will be a few iPads knocking around and watching the Premier League or Championship. The Masters golf just finished and football is at the business end of the season, so if we’re not playing on Saturdays and Sundays that would definitely be the first outlet.

The other day we had one of those chipping mats — a golf mat where you chip Velcro balls and they stick on to a mat and you get a score.

There’s so much to do nowadays. Sometimes it can depend on where you are, whether you’re home or away. Obviously, if you’re at home and there’s a little bit of a rain delay, it’s easier to organise or have things there to keep you occupied.

Sometimes you get yourself in the gym or do some sort of physical work or you can still hone in on some cricket skills. You might use the indoor school, use your time to practise something that you’ve been working on in your game. But then you’ve got some people who just switch off completely and have a nap.

It’s very much up to the individual. As long as you’re mentally prepared for when that moment comes, if it comes, to say, “Right, I’m switched on and I’m ready to go now.”

On the field, it was nice to get in a full game last week against Hampshire Seconds at the Ageas Bowl and also to have some time in the middle in both innings [68 and 42].

It was one of them where we felt you win the toss, you win the game. It was a tricky wicket. You still have to do the right things as a bowling unit and stick the ball in the right areas, and our bowlers did what we asked of them.

We were able to bowl out a pretty strong Hampshire second-team batting line-up. It was good to get some runs in the first innings. It was a situation where we lost a few wickets and it could have easily been a scenario where we lost more very quickly and then we’re behind the eight-ball. But I just tried to take the game on, take the game to the opposition and put pressure back on them. Suddenly a few shots came out the middle and fielders started to go out, which made it a little bit easier.

The Hampshire team included in their ranks Mason Crane, the former England leg spinner whose one Test match was in the Ashes series in Australia in 2017-18 — he’s still only 26. We were just trying to put pressure on him, knowing he had a big role to play in that last innings with the ball starting to spin a lot. We were trying to play the cricket that Farbs [coach Paul Farbrace] has been promoting in the first team and do what the team might need at that time.

He bowled me in both innings with some good balls but it was gratifying to bring up my fifty in the first innings against an absolute pie of a full toss. Sometimes you get those gifts and you can hit them straight down the fielder’s throat. But I gave it everything and luckily it came out the middle for six.

When he got it right, though, he was a threat, picking up six wickets for the match. In the first innings, he got me with one that spun out of the footmarks; it was a pretty good ball. But in the second innings, the option that I took probably wasn’t the right one. As long as I can reflect and learn from that, if I found myself in that situation again, play it better. That’s all you can ask for, really. He’s a pretty good operator. Going forward I need to take an option that’s more in my favour.

In all it was a good four-wicket win. The squad overall is looking good. We’ve got quite a lot of depth this year, and there’s still Steve Smith to come. The first team have started well with a good win and then a draw, which I guess you can say was a bit lucky with the weather [last day against Yorkshire was rained out with the visiting side requiring 63 to win with seven wickets standing]. But we’ve been playing good cricket, so I guess you create your own luck sometimes.

• Delray Rawlins was talking to Dexter Smith

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Published April 27, 2023 at 7:34 am (Updated April 27, 2023 at 8:18 am)

Death, taxes and English rain

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