South 347 (Gubbins 116, Rawlins 53, Bell-Drummond 52, Mahmood 5-60), beat North 284 (Mullaney 57) by 63 runs
Four times South has played North and four times they have emerged victorious. The latest victory even came with a record attached – an imposing total of 348 which was a List A record for all matches, domestic and international, played at the Kensington Oval.
Middlesex’s opener Nick Gubbins smashed a century in Barbados in this prelude to the county season to maintain South’s 100 percent record in this fixture since it was first played in the UAE last Spring.
Their total was built on the sturdy foundations of an enterprising opening stand of 134 off 112 balls between Gubbins and Daniel Bell-Drummond, both of whom are England Lions regulars with international ambitions.
When Gubbins was well caught by Saqib Mahmood off D’Oliveira for a 99-ball 116, his last 17 had been scored on one leg as severe cramp hindered him so badly he would take no further part in the game,
Things looked ominous for North from the outset. Richard Gleeson opened proceedings with a 10-ball over containing four wides and was whipped out of the attack after his first two overs conceded 16 runs.
The introduction of spin in the shape of Brett d’Oliveira in the fifth over failed to stem the flow as Bell-Drummond drove off both front and back foot with the elegance, grace and ease that alerted the touring Australians to his abilities back in 2015.
Gubbins began scratchily, telegraphing his advances down the wicket but somehow finding the boundary, including one towering six over midwicket, when it looked more likely he was about to give his wicket away. He was particularly severe on North’s captain Steven Mullaney, whose four overs went for 38 runs.
When eventually Bell-Drummond departed in the 19th over for a 53 ball 52, caught behind off a sharply lifting delivery from the pacey and consistently impressive Zak Chappell, this was the cue for Gubbins to cut loose. Partnerships of 52 and 45 with Sam Northeast and Laurie Evans came and went in a mere 88 balls
Upon his dismissal, South, on 231 for 3 with nearly 17 overs remaining, were eying the sunlit uplands of 380-400. That they didn’t get there was down almost entirely to a remarkable spell of fast, reverse swing bowling from Mahmood, Lancashire’s promising young quick bowler.
His first five overs had been plundered for 44 runs as he strayed in line whilst repeatedly peppering the middle of an unresponsive wicket. His final three overs brought five wickets, all bowled, for just a further 16 runs and restricted South to a mere, albeit record, 347 all out, t total which overhauled the 328 made at the ground by England against West Indies last March.
With his first ball back in the attack, Mahmood produced the perfect yorker to dismiss England Under-19 all-rounder Delray Rawlins who was playing just his second List A match following his debut against South Africa last summer. Rawlins’ 53 from 41 balls contained five fours and two towering sixes. On the strength of this match, in which he also produced six tidy overs of left arm spin, he is a man to watch this season.
North’s reply began with two early reprieves for both openers, Alex Davies and Joe Clarke, dropped by Rawlins at slip off the impressive Sam Curran who was the pick of the new ball bowlers on display.
Having reached 100 for 1 after 15 overs the nominally home side looked well placed but Somerset off-spinner Dom Bess picked up both Clarke for 46 and Keaton Jennings for a duck in the day’s only maiden to induce a squeeze that would turn the match irrevocably in his side’s favour.
South’s three-pronged spin attack of Bess, Ravi Patel and Rawlins sucked the life out of the innings in the middle overs and despite a 61-ball partnership of 89 between d’Oliveira and the hugely underrated Steven Mullaney, South were only ever a good over away from slamming the door shut.
That it was provided by Sam Curran was only fitting as he emulated Mahmood’s earlier efforts by bowling both d’Oliveira and Chappell with successive balls, the latter with a beauty that turned the Leicestershire all rounder inside out before parting his off and middle stumps like a hillbilly’s teeth.
Mullaney followed next ball to Middlesex’s Tom Barber, a wild card pick who has impressed in the winter’s fast bowling camp, to complete the team hat trick. Curran eventually delivered the coup de grace when he had Mahmood caught by Simpson off a skier with North 63 runs short.
In spite of the scepticism in some quarters as to the value of this fixture, England coaches Paul Collingwood and Mark Ramprakash, who are in charge of the teams, will have been impressed by a number of players. As well as the outstanding contributions of Gubbins, Mahmood, Bell-Drummond and Rawlins, Bess, until his last two overs showed exactly why so many Somerset supporters have been singing his praises.
The powerfully built Chappell was distinctly rapid on a slow pitch, getting a couple of balls to leap off a length at good pace, and both Clarke and Sam Hain looked class acts at the top of the order. It’s worth remembering that Dawid Malan impressed in this series last Spring and is now an established presence in the senior side.
The series continues with two further matches on Wednesday and Friday.