Middlesex star: We always believed we could win County Championship
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Middlesex hat-trick hero Toby Roland-Jones says the squad were always confident in their ability to become county champions this year.
Roland-Jones clinched Middlesex’s first title since 1993 by dismissing Azeem Rafiq, Andrew Hodd and Ryan Sidebottom with consecutive deliveries to wrap up a dramatic victory against Yorkshire at Lord’s.
Middlesex’s success was achieved despite drawing all of their first six County Championship fixtures – but the belief in the dressing room never diminished, according to Roland-Jones.
The England Lions seamer cited Middlesex’s first win of the season over Yorkshire – when they beat the defending champions by an innings and four runs at Scarborough in early July – as the key moment.
“I think early on we knew we were playing good cricket,” said Roland-Jones. “With a lot of the draws we were in, it was the weather or the lack of decent pitches holding us up.
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“We knew, if we stuck at it, we’d find our feet and gain momentum and that’s the way it’s gone. Once we found that winning feeling, it was tough to grind out results.
“I’d say Scarborough was a big turning point – to be still batting on day four and turn that around away from home, then bowl them out in two and a bit sessions was a pretty special effort.
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“It didn’t take that for us to start believing, but at some point you do have to pick up results. There was enough talk about it and we really had to start producing ways to win tough games.
“I think we always knew we had a special group and sensed that we had the capability of doing it but, after all the hard work, to wrap it up in this fashion was unbelievable.”
With both sides needing victory to overtake Somerset and lift the crown, Middlesex captain James Franklin and his Yorkshire counterpart Andrew Gale agreed that the visitors would be set a target of 240 from 40 overs.
Although Tim Bresnan’s knock of 55 from 48 balls gave Yorkshire hope of retaining their crown, they were bowled out for 178 with 4.4 overs left as Roland-Jones finished with figures of 6-54.
“Both teams were prepared to put their chances of coming second on the line, to finish the winner – and good on Yorkshire for agreeing to the deal,” added Roland-Jones.
“I think it was a really fair one and that showed in the way it ebbed and flowed. Tim Bresnan played a hell of a knock but they ran out of steam in the end.
“They weren’t back-to-back champions for no reason – we knew it was going to be tough. But if you had to pick a way to win the championship, this would be right up there. It’ll last long in the memory.”