Search

Middlesex and England Lions spinner aims to take his good form into new County Championship season

07:32 03 April 2014

Middlesex

Middlesex's Ollie Rayner (centre) celebrates dismissing Surrey's Gareth Batty (out of picture).

EMPICS Sport

If anyone is relishing the start of the new season, it’s Ollie Rayner – in fact, the Middlesex spinner must wish the last one had never ended.

Out of sorts during the early part of the summer, Rayner was dropped to the second team and, after a thorough remodelling of his bowling action, returned with a bang.

The 28-year-old collected his first five-wicket haul of the season against Derbyshire – as well as hitting an unbeaten half-century – and followed it up with an astonishing demolition job on Middlesex’s biggest rivals.

Rayner recorded match figures of 15-118, the seventh best in Middlesex history, to secure victory over Surrey at The Oval, and his form earned him a call-up to the England Lions side for their winter tour of Sri Lanka.

“That wasn’t on my radar at all,” said Rayner. “It was a bonus and a pretty good bonus and I enjoyed every minute of it. The fact that it all came together in one year was absolutely brilliant.

“The decision to look at my bowling action was a big one – I completely stripped it back, started from square one and did a lot of work, which really paid off.

“I never really looked back – even in games where I didn’t take lots of wickets, I bowled nicely. It was good to get a little bit of recognition for that and, more than the recognition, an opportunity to carry on my form.

“To continue what I was doing was my main goal and I even managed to burgle my way onto the MCC trip to play Durham in Dubai the other week, so I could get out of England and bowl a bit before the season.

“It’s all about confidence in professional sport if someone’s flying high. Bad balls don’t get whacked and good balls stick, whereas when things aren’t going well, half-chances are dropped or you don’t get that lbw.

“I hope I can carry this through and start again where I left off –maybe not in terms of wickets, but in terms of my action and the feel of it. I’m buzzing and ready to go.”

Middlesex’s first assignment of the new County Championship season, starting on Sunday, sends Rayner back to the familiar surroundings of Hove to take on his former county, Sussex.

The off-spinner, who moved permanently to Lord’s two years ago after an earlier loan spell, expects Sussex – who finished third in Division One last season – to be among the title contenders again.

But he also believes Middlesex, who slipped to fifth after falling away in the closing weeks of the 2013 campaign, can mount a stronger challenge of their own.

“The last two seasons were almost the wrong way round,” said Rayner. “We finished third the year before but perhaps didn’t deserve that, then last year I believe we deserved to finish higher.

“But we have to keep our concentration for the whole season, because we did peter off a little bit. I know how Sussex operate and I don’t think you can rule them out this season – or any season.

“I don’t mind going back to Hove – if anything, I enjoy it, although I’d rather do it in August when I can sit on the beach and have an ice-cream as opposed to wrapping up in a hundred jumpers in April!

“Every team is bang up for that first game and it’s just about whoever comes out of the blocks the quickest.

“If we carry on what we’ve been doing into this year and we’re up near the top when it matters, we’ll have it all to play for.”

Latest Sport Stories

Calum Chambers of Arsenal  (Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger insists defender Calum Chambers will not leave the club on loan this summer.

Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager looks on (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Arsene Wenger has confirmed that three Arsenal players will not be available to face Chelsea in the Community Shield this weekend.

15:25
Craig Gourlay hit 75 not out for Highgate as they triumphed against Harrow Town

Craig Gourlay smashed an unbeaten 75 from just 32 balls to complete a thrilling run-chase as Highgate beat Harrow Town to stretch their lead at the top of the table.

DeAndre Yedlin

Mauricio Pochettino has challenged DeAndre Yedlin to prove he is ready to be a Premier League player after the USA international joined up with the Tottenham squad in Denver.

Most read sport

Property Newsletter Sign-up

Get the latest North London property news and features straight to your inbox with our regular newsletter

I am also happy to receive other emails...
Fields marked with a * are mandatory
Email Marketing by e-shot

Competitions

Take in the stunning sites of London from the summit of the O2!

Up at The O2 has teamed up with London24 to give one lucky reader the chance to experience urban mountaineering this summer with an exhilarating 90-minute climb across the roof of one of London’s most iconic landmarks.

Terrific tea, creamy cakes and splendid sandwiches at Mews of Mayfair.

Celebrate a truly quintessentially British tradition with the chance of winning a luxurious Afternoon Tea for two people at Mews of Mayfair, complete with a glass of Veuve Clicquot champagne.

Digital Edition

Image
Read the Hampstead & Highgate Express e-edition today E-edition
Family Notices 24


Our trusted business finder