Middlesex star: County Championship title would mean everything to me

Middlesex's Ollie Rayner

Middlesex's Ollie Rayner - Credit: EMPICS Sport

Ollie Rayner is one of the few players in the Middlesex dressing room who knows how it feels to be part of a title-winning squad.

The off-spinner was just emerging through the ranks at Hove when Sussex recorded the first of their back-to-back County Championship triumphs a decade ago.

Yet Rayner, who is Middlesex’s leading wicket-taker with 50 in the County Championship this season, readily admits it would mean more to him to help guide the Lord’s side to their first crown in 23 years.

“Sussex were great to me and I was very fortunate to be part of that. I really appreciate everything they gave me at the time – but I wasn’t a big cog in that gear,” said Rayner.

“To be more a part of it this time, it’d mean everything if we can get over the line. It’d be phenomenal to do that, and if we don’t it certainly won’t be through lack of effort.

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“We’ve been building this base for a few years now and we’re ready to launch from it. We’ve shown character all year and we’ve played some great cricket.

“It’s been a good year for me personally. I’m enjoying it and I’ve had a lot of help from everyone this year in terms of the captaincy, the fielding and the pitches.

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“People are talking about other things with regard to the England tours in the winter and so on. I know it sounds a bit gooey, but I’ve got no interest in that at the moment – I’d rather win the championship.”

Rayner left Hove to join Middlesex, initially on loan, in 2011 and helped his new side to become Division Two champions that season before the move became a permanent deal.

Since then, the 30-year-old has been a mainstay of the Middlesex team that immediately established themselves in the top flight and finished as runners-up last season.

That sense of continuous progression helped convince Rayner to agree a two-year contract extension recently – and he fully intends to be involved in further challenges for the championship during that period.

“When I signed here five years ago the club were doing a bit of a rebuild and I really liked the direction they wanted to take us in,” added Rayner.

“They were trying to recruit a certain kind of person that fitted the club DNA. They’ve capped me and given me an extension, so I’m happy that they seem to think I still fit that bill!

“We’ve got a great team and we’ve got our one-day cricket a bit better as well, which was a big objective this season. All the boys have bought into that new DNA and it seems to be paying off.

“I might not always be perceived as a senior player but I’d like to think I am in the way I go about my cricket. When it’s time to knuckle down and put a sensible hat on, I think I can contribute in that area.

“We’ve had a few England call-ups – plus Murts (Tim Murtagh) going off pretending to be Irish from time to time – and the guys that have come in have done a great job.

“That really shows the strength in depth and character of the squad and I think we can keep building on that year in, year out.”

Middlesex lead the Division One table by nine points going into the final week of the season after their match against Lancashire at Old Trafford ended in a draw.

Another draw at Lord’s, where they face second-placed Yorkshire, will be enough to keep Middlesex ahead of their opponents – but that could allow Somerset to leapfrog both teams and snatch the title by beating relegated Nottinghamshire at Taunton.

The Yorkshire clash gets under way on Tuesday, with play due to start at 10.30am on all four days.

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