When the ‘Home of Cricket’ is being discussed, the English cricketers have a very recent reminiscence about it. Winding the clock nine months back, the Specsavers County Championship Division One was at the business end and three teams were fighting for the title. Yorkshire and Middlesex locked horns at the Lord’s on September 20 in the title decider game. The winner would go on to clinch the title and if the match ended in a draw, Somerset would take away the trophy.
Middlesex’s Captain James Franklin made a brave declaration at 359 for 9 on the final day and left the defending champions, Yorkshire, with a target of 240 off 40 overs to win their third consecutive Country Championship title. The final day ended in a dramatic fashion. A Toby Roland-Jones hat-trick sealed a 61-win for Middlesex that bestowed them a Country Championship win after 23 long years. Toby had Azeem Rafiq caught behind hooking at the end of 34th over and then bowled Andrew Hodd and Ryan Sidebottom with the first two deliveries of the 36th over and finished with figures of 6 for 54 and match figures of 10 for 127.
Toby’s hat-trick in the title-winning game and a total of 54 First-Class wickets in the 2016 season shouted aloud at the selectors, “pick me!” There was no way this could have been gone unnoticed.
The persistent Toby
Cricket is amongst the most popular sports in England and there are no surprises that five out of the 10 children dream of becoming a cricketer. Toby was no different. He began his cricketing journey as a right-handed batsman before he had transformed into a promising medium-fast bowler. He represented the Middlesex Colts in age group cricket throughout his childhood. However, he failed to get a contract from Surrey, who he represented in second eleven cricket, so Toby just crossed the river and made his debut for Middlesex. He picked 36 First-Class wickets at 19.11 in his debut season for Middlesex in 2010.
He bagged 48, 43 and 54 wickets in 2014, 15 and 16 and now is one of their key members.
After a series of impressive runs for Middlesex, Toby earned his first-ever call from England in 2016 for the home Test series against Pakistan. Sadly, he did not make it to the XI.
Had Toby played in the Pakistan series, he would have etched his name in England’s special record book.
There have been a handful of cricketers with double-barrelled names played international cricket so far. If Toby plays the upcoming Test series against South Africa, he will become England’s first double-barrelled cricketer since Norman ‘Mandy’ Mitchell-Innes, who made a single Test appearance, in 1935 and overall fifth.
The England team are yet to register a series win in Tests since their victory against Sri Lanka at home in May 2016. In the last one year, they have lost to India and drew against lower-ranked sides like Pakistan and Bangladesh. They need players who will bring freshness to the side and help England revive their depleted form.
The fact that Toby’s figures were better than England’s spearheads, James Anderson and Stuart Broad in the County Championship 2016, strengthened his chances to make it to the XI. Moreover, he has 2000+ runs from 91 First-Class games. Toby’s incredible combination of economic bowling and dangerous middle-lower order batting makes him a very effective option in the English Test XI.
Toby has to wait a bit more
It has been declared already, England will rely on two spinners for the first Test at Lord’s which would start from tomorrow. Joe Root, the newly appointed captain of England, confirmed that Liam Dawson will form a two-pronged spin attack along with Moeen Ali. Keeping in mind about South Africa’s weakness against spin bowlers, the English think tank might have thought such, but the inclusion of Dawson means, Toby Roland-Jones still has to wait for making his debut for England in Test cricket.
It would have been great for Toby to make his Test debut in front of his home crowd, but sadly, it won’t happen. But in my opinion, Toby might have been a very good selection considering his recent form in County Championship.
“Toby is a player we have been monitoring for quite some time and deserves his chance after a strong couple of seasons with Middlesex in red-ball cricket. He has been in good form this campaign and his ability to seam the ball along with the fact that he can score useful runs down the order gives up a number of options,” Selector James Whitaker said recently. These words from the selectors show the amount of faith they have in the 27-year-old seam bowler.
But Toby’s wait has been prolonged.
Root, obviously, would like to kick off his role as the England skipper with a win and will certainly pick the best XI face the World No. 2 South Africa and perhaps, he will consider Toby’s selection in the upcoming Tests.