Delray Rawlins marked his 23rd birthday yesterday with another fine all-round display.
However, it still was not enough to prevent his Sussex Sharks from a 12-run defeat against champions Essex Eagles in the Vitality Blast at the 1st Central County Ground in Hove.
The Bermuda all-rounder returned career-best Twenty20 figures of two for 18 off three overs with his left-arm spin and then lashed a quickfire 37 from 20 deliveries in the top order, hitting three sixes and as many boundaries along the way.
“It was nice to do the thing I love the most on my birthday, but tough loss to take,” Rawlins told The Royal Gazette.
Led by a brutal innings of 81 off 44 balls from Dan Lawrence, Essex piled up a challenging 197 for five after being sent to bat.
Sussex then replied with 185 for eight, with opener Aaron Thomason top scoring with 47 from 36 deliveries.
Rawlins and Thomason added 59 for the third wicket to keep the home side on track. However, the match swung sharply in Essex’s favour after the pair were both dismissed four balls apart after being held at short third man.
“It was a good wicket but we lost key wickets at the wrong time, just as we were building momentum,” Rawlins added. “We looked quite good for the majority of it, just disappointed not to cross the line.”
The result, Sussex’s second loss of the competition, enabled the Kent Spitfires to leapfrog them and regain the lead in the South Group standings.
Sussex went into the match with momentum having handed Kent their first defeat of the campaign two days earlier at the Spitfire Ground in St Lawrence, Canterbury.
Rawlins played an integral role in the visiting side’s eight-wicket victory in the top-of-the-table clash as he struck a blistering unbeaten half-century and claimed two wickets.
The left-handed batsman led the chase as he hit six fours and four sixes in a whirlwind knock of 62 from 33 balls and dominated a match-winning 62 run third-wicket partnership with Ravi Bopara.
Rawlins lofted Fred Klassen, the Kent seam bowler, straight down the ground for four to bring up his half-century off 31 balls in 32 minutes before belting three successive boundaries off the same bowler to see Sussex safely home with 26 balls to spare.
“The way I’ve been preparing, I feel like that innings was always coming soon,” Rawlins said. “But I’m just happy I can put in a performance to contribute to a win.”
Luke Wright, the Sussex captain and England all-rounder, added: “It was so pleasing to see him [Rawlins] bat the way he did here. He looked like a superstar out there and we know he can go on and be the international player he aspires to be.”
Sussex did well to restrict Kent to 141 for eight after being sent to bat with third change Rawlins claiming two for 25.
Kent were in a strong position at 90 for three midway through their innings but were unable to capitalise as Wright’s gamble to deploy spin at both ends with Rawlins and Danny Briggs working in tandem paid off.
“Getting those wickets in the middle overs helped us to drag it back and it was great for us that Delray got a couple of wickets too,” Wright added.
“I’ve been trying to give him more of a bowl in this and he helped us to strangle them run-rate wise in the middle overs.”