Middlesex’s Roland-Jones backed for return to top form


Toby Roland-Jones has been backed by his county Middlesex to return to the bowler he was during his current comeback from two stress fractures of the back.

Statistically at least it is not going as may have been hoped – four wickets in four championship matches at an average of 95. “He has had some horrific injuries and expectations on Toby to get straight back into it were unrealistic,” believes Middlesex coach Stuart Law.

“People don’t understand that takes a bit of guts and a bit of courage to do what he is doing. Every innings he goes through he looks like he is almost getting there.”

The 2017 season had been, as the bowler himself admits a “a pretty bittersweet experience“ for Roland-Jones. He made his England ODI and test debuts, was England’s test find of the summer, with 17 wickets at under 20 in his four matches. But then, with an Ashes tour beckoning, suffered a stress fracture of the back, and was part of the relegated Middlesex side. The season before Middlesex had been champions, when Roland-Jones took a match-winning hat-trick with the final three balls of Middlesex’s season.

He was philosophical about missing out on the Ashes tour.  “It wasn’t something at the start of the year I was targeting or expecting to go on, so I ended up watching it just as I would have before. By the time the matches had come around my mindset was very much away from clutching at what may have been.”

By going to Desert Springs on the fast-bowling programme and bowling “at 100% outdoors” he secured a place on the Lions tour to the West Indies. But this did not prove to be a stepping stone to the main touring party for New Zealand, unlike for four others from that Lions party.

Then last season, in April, he suffered a re-occurrence of the stress fracture, which put him out of the season. Middlesex MD of Cricket Angus Fraser said at the time: “I know how frustrating it can be to miss a summer of cricket through injury, having been through this myself on two occasions. The ray of light is that you do recover and you do come back stronger and even more determined.”

Reports from pre-season was Roland-Jones was bowling well, yet in the championship matches thus far it is, as Stuart Law admits, “not really clicking for Toby, but he’s not one who gives up the fight.”

“He is nowhere near where he’d like I’m sure, but he’s not thrown the towel in and he keeps charging in and trying to get it right. He will get there – he has been there before and he knows what he needs to do and it’s just up to him to start trusting his body again and that takes time.”

“He will definitely get back to what he was,” avers his captain Dawid Malan. “When you have hardly played for 18 months, your body is not used to bowling 25 overs a day, the intensity, to be putting that stress on your body. When you are tired you probably don’t keep your action strong.”

“He’s finding it, he knows what he wants to work on and these things take time and the only way people can get through these things is if you back them. We know Toby is still the same bowler he was and he is working on a few things and he’ll get back to being his best when it all clicks. Sometimes it takes you longer than you want but he’ll get back to it.”


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