Rawlins has support and talent for success

  • Promising start: Rawlins made 22 and 9, but also took a wicket in his County Championship debut (Photograph by Cleon Scotland)

Delray Rawlins knows how closely his rapidly advancing career is being followed in Bermuda.

And although the figures from his first-class debut for Sussex against Kent over the Easter weekend do not look spectacular, they do not tell the whole story.

In the first innings, coming in at No 4 after the fall of Ajmal Shahzad, the nightwatchman, Rawlins showed mature composure to make 22 in 138 minutes against testing bowling in tough conditions. The first time he allowed himself an expansive shot outside the off stump it was his last: he was smartly caught low down at slip by Will Gidman off Wayne Parnell, the South Africa left-arm fast bowler.

“It was unfortunate to nick one that I felt was in my zone, but that’s the way the game goes,” Rawlins said. “I was quite relaxed. Even without the first run [it was 15 minutes before he turned a single to mid-wicket], I felt comfortable. I got a few blocks off the middle of the bat and early on got quite a few short balls.

“I felt I lined it up very well. It’s part of my game to leave the ball outside off stump and I had done that well. I know as a No 3 part of the job is to see the shine off the ball and then hopefully cash in from around the 40-over mark when the ball gets softer.”

Rawlins fought hard for nearly an hour to make nine second time round before being caught behind and becoming the fifth and final victim of a brilliant spell of medium-pace bowling by the canny 40-year-old Darren Stevens, which paved the way for an overwhelming 226-run victory by Kent.

“They bowled well and made it difficult to score,” Rawlins said. “I tried to capitalise on what I call my ball. I got one away [a straight drive to the boundary] and I still felt good but Darren Stevens bowled very well at everyone.

“The ball that got me looked as though it was going to swing back in but it didn’t, just held its line and took the under edge. Again, it’s the way it goes, especially when they’re bowling that well at you.”

As well as clear promise with the bat, Rawlins was also entrusted with a nine-over spell with his left-arm spin in Kent’s second innings immediately after lunch on the third day, picking up the wicket of Gidman caught on the square-leg boundary. “I enjoy my bowling,” Rawlins said. “I thought I bowled fairly well and that it came out of my fingers quite nicely and I was very happy to get my first first-class wicket – probably not in the ideal fashion but a wicket is a wicket.”

The encouragement that Rawlins has received from Mark Davis, the head coach, Jon Lewis, his assistant, and Mike Yardy, the new batting coach, is much appreciated by the 19-year-old. “If you had told me in October that I would be batting at No 3 in the first championship game of the season, I would have laughed at you,” he said. “The knowledge I have gained from them has helped me enormously and I’m just looking to keep picking their brains. All three are pushing me, challenging me to do well.

“The Kent match was a big step up. It was great that all the boys were behind me. I was up against very, very experienced bowlers. It was an eye-opener. I was very pleased to be in the side and hopefully I can kick on. The team goes to play Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge on Friday. Hopefully we can put a bad result behind us and I’ll be involved again.”

Lewis plays a particularly big role in Rawlins’s life as he shares a house just outside Brighton with him and Jofra Archer, the hugely talented all-rounder from Barbados, just outside Brighton. “Having Jon Lewis away with the Under-19s in India was very helpful,” Rawlins said. “He was able to see some of my good points first hand. It was very helpful having him out there as well as someone that I know from the club as we didn’t have any other players out there.”

Rawlins admits he is also indebted to Alan Wells, the former Sussex captain who is in charge at St Bede’s, the school to which Rawlins won the scholarship that brought him to England. “He’s a very influential man in my development,” Rawlins said. “He’s helped me to kick on with every step and obviously set me up with the trial at Sussex a few years ago.

“I owe a lot to him for the way he helped me and still helps me. I keep in contact with him and hopefully will do so for many years to come. He is a mentor, someone I talk to about my game from time to time. He opened up my eyes with the professional environment he runs at Bede’s.”

It’s not all hard work. “The coaches are really good at ensuring you have proper rest days, especially if you’re someone who plays in all three formats, which is something I certainly hope to do,” Rawlins said.

Archer is becoming a firm friend and great support. “We don’t talk about cricket too much at home,” Rawlins said. “We try to take our mind off it: play video games a lot, go out and chill, go out for a meal and stuff. What we do say is ‘keep playing the way you do, keep backing yourself and enjoying it.’ ”

Now that the season is in full swing, driving lessons are on hold but Rawlins is developing a taste for golf – played with some of his team-mates and old friends from school – and he follows the football scene avidly.

“I’m a Manchester United fan,” Rawlins said. “I try to watch them every time I can. Obviously seeing Brighton going up this year is nice. Premier League football coming down here is good. Hopefully I’ll be able to watch United play when they come here.”

He also keeps in regular touch with Kamau Leverock, who dismissed him in the Battle of the Bermudians during the match against Cardiff MCCU. “He’s a very, very good mate of mine,” Rawlins said. “It was almost fate I guess: a short ball I nicked trying to pull, nicked behind to the keeper. Not one of those ideal nicks-off from a forward defensive, but a wicket is a wicket.

“He bowled well at me. He’s in his last year at Cardiff Uni and hopefully he will be able to showcase his talents around the counties and be picked up by somebody. I’ll be very chuffed for him if he does get an opportunity.”

Bermuda and trips home to see his parents, Millard and Dilys, are important to Rawlins. “It’s an exciting time for myself, my family and obviously the country,” he said. “You don’t feel it at the time but when I go back home I feel how much of a big deal it is.

“It’s quite humbling to see how much it means to certain people round the country and how much it means to my family.

“I’m just really keen to keep progressing and grow as a player and a person as well and hopefully have a long career with Sussex. If I do well here, who knows what can happen in terms of international cricket?”

Walter Gammie is a Sussex season ticket-holder and former chief sub-editor of The Times