Middlesex coach hails spinner’s timely comeback

Middlesex spinner Ravi Patel is likely to play a key role in the remainder of the season following his impressive return from injury.

The 21-year-old left-armer missed the first two months of the campaign with a broken wrist, but has made quite an impact with his Friends Life t20 performances for the Panthers in recent weeks.

Middlesex’s confidence in Patel was underlined by their decision to send fellow spinner Tom Smith on loan to Gloucestershire for the duration of the t20 tournament.

And first-team coach Richard Scott is expecting the youngster to feature prominently in the rest of Middlesex’s County Championship and YB40 programmes as well.

“We’re looking for good things from Ravi,” said Scott. “The wickets are drying out and they’re more spin-friendly, so we’re probably looking forward to having him in the side in all formats.

“Ravi showed at the back end of last year, in the County Championship, what a quality bowler he was, and he’s been brilliant for us in the t20 games.

“He’s come in with a lot of confidence and bowled to his field and made it very difficult for the opposition.

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“On the worn pitches we generally play on in this competition, he’s a bit of a handful.

“Ravi spins the ball more than both Tom and Ollie Rayner, so we felt he would be more of a wicket-taking threat in this format. The other two are fine bowlers in their own right, but they don’t have that same threat.

“When Ravi was fit again, there was no real space for Tom in the side, but I’m pleased that Tom’s got a chance to play first-team cricket now. It’s better that he’s playing there than being on the sidelines with us.”

Since his comeback, Patel has been the Panthers’ most economical t20 bowler, taking seven wickets at an average cost of 11.85 and including a career-best performance of 4-18 against Surrey.

And the spinner revealed that, after the initial shock of learning he would be out until late June, he was determined to seize his earliest opportunity of a recall.

“I was playing with the injury during pre-season,” said Patel. “Because it was my right wrist, I could still bowl and I was managing it, putting tape on and that sort of thing.

“The only problem I had was when I was batting. I played in a game at Cambridge and the pain wasn’t going down, so I went for a scan the next day and that revealed a fracture.

“All of a sudden that was two months out of the game, just like that – it was a real shock to me. I had a stress fracture when I was 15, but since then I’d been pretty injury-free. This was the first time I’d had a big setback.

“It was very hard to get my head around it. I really missed playing cricket and it was very frustrating, but I just had to make sure that, the minute it was healed, I was ready to step into any situation.”

Injuries have also depleted Middlesex’s seam bowling department of late, with James Harris battling to shake off a persistent side strain and Toby Roland-Jones sustaining an ankle problem during last week’s County Championship defeat by Warwickshire.

Neither of the pair are taking part in the current four-day game against league leaders Sussex at Hove and Scott added: “Hopefully James will be fit next week. It’s been a frustrating time for him and us, in that he hasn’t played as often as he’d like. But that’s the reason you’ve got a squad and we’ve got to get by.”