Middlesex star Roland-Jones: Why I had no time for nervous 90s in victory over Yorkshire
Toby Roland-Jones’ maiden first-class hundred in the stunning comeback win over champions Yorkshire might never have happened, he revealed this week.
The paceman, whose previous career-best total was 77, had no time for the ‘nervous 90s’ when playing his part in a record ninth-wicket stand of 146 with James Harris – a message from the dressing room indicated that a declaration was on the cards, and that if he wanted the magic three figures he needed to get a wriggle on.
The long handle was duly applied, with a six and a four carrying Roland-Jones to the ton in the last over of day three, setting up the chance for victory.
“I hadn’t known what to think in the 90s, but about two overs from the end of play we got some form of message from the balcony suggesting we might not carry on into the morning so if I was going to get the 100 this was the time to chance my arm a bit,” he said.
“It was great to have Jimmy [Harris] at the other end as well as he is a pretty calming influence.”
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Roland-Jones’ heroics were not finished, either. When the declaration came overnight on day three he duly picked up the challenge with the ball, bagging 5-27 to skittle Jason Gillespie’s men for 134 and complete the remarkable turnaround.
It was the 27-year-old right-armer’s first five-wicket haul of a season he has spent in the shadow of re-born quick Harris.
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Asked if it may lead to an England Lions recall, Roland-Jones preferred to concentrate on the here and now and let the upcoming winter take care of itself.
“Everyone says it [about the Lions], but I am not particularly thinking about that during the season,” he said. “For now it is just nice to have put in a bit of a performance and to have been part of a pretty epic win.
“The bowling spell has been coming for a while. I don’t think I’ve been bowling badly and I’ve done a job holding up one end at important times. I just have not had that decisive spell which defines a bowler. So it is nice that it has come at last and hopefully I can carry that into the last game and get a few more.”
The 246-run win represented a remarkable change of fortune in a match which saw Roland-Jones and company 0-3 at the end of the first over in seamer-friendly conditions on the first morning.
They were duly routed for 106 and despite fighting back with the ball trailed by 193 on first innings.
At 143-5 second time around the Lord’s tenants looked destined to lose inside two days, but Nick Compton’s 149 swung the pendulum towards the hosts before Harris and Roland-Jones’ stunning stand gave their side the initiative.
The events which unfolded created a strange sense of deja vu as it was Middlesex who inflicted Yorkshire’s only defeat of last season too – another remarkable fightback at the home of cricket which saw them chase down 472 for victory.
For Roland-Jones, this latest success trumps last season’s epic and is a symbol of an increasing resilience in the Middlesex dressing-room.
He added: “When you look back at that first day and the scramble for pads in the first over it was a remarkable turnaround.
“We certainly pride ourselves on putting up a fight and not rolling over, and this was the best example of this against a team of the calibre of Yorkshire, who are worthy champions. It must count as our best win of the season and the best I’ve been involved with, that is for sure.”