PAUL NEWMAN: Resurgence of Middlesex bowler Toby Roland-Jones at 34 after a dreadful run of injuries shows that class is permanent… he is is one of the good guys who should have played a lot more for England
- Toby Roland-Jones is enjoying a renaissance after battling back from injury
- The bowler took 10 wickets in Middlesex’s victory over Durham last week
- David ‘Bumble’ Lloyd will be a glaring absentee from Vitality Blast this year
It will not lead to a romantic recall by England but the renaissance of Toby Roland-Jones for Middlesex has been one of the feel-good stories of the first instalment of this season’s Championship.
Few English bowlers have had such rotten luck with injuries, particularly as they came for Roland-Jones just after he had shown he belonged at the very highest level.
There was the hat-trick at Lord’s against Yorkshire to clinch the 2016 title in the most dramatic fashion which led to recognition by England and four Tests the next summer.
Middlesex bowler Toby Roland-Jones is enjoying a renaissance after battling back from injury
He made a spectacular impact, taking South Africa’s top four wickets in his first 33 balls in Test cricket, going on to claim 17 at 19.64 that summer and seemingly booking his seat on the plane to Australia the following winter.
But then it all started going wrong for Roland-Jones when he succumbed to that injury which is the current curse of England bowlers, a stress fracture of the back.
Not only had the Ashes gone but the injury reoccurred after one comeback match in 2018 and he missed the truncated 2020 season with a shoulder issue.
Then there was knee surgery that ruled Roland-Jones out for four months last year.
The England bowler took South Africa’s top four wickets in his first 33 balls in Test cricket
But when he did play in 2021 Roland-Jones proved he had lost none of his class and consistency when he took 25 wickets in six games at 18 apiece and he has started this season with a flourish, taking 30 in his first five, including an eight-for against Glamorgan.
Most notably, Roland-Jones took 10 wickets in Middlesex’s victory over Durham last week, including Ben Stokes for a second-ball duck, and is finally reaping the rewards, at 34, for never giving up after fate had dealt him a particularly bad hand.
‘There was a time when getting through long spells was a bit of a battle,’ said Roland-Jones this week of his fight to get back to his very best. ‘But that feeling is turning the other way now and I’m finding rhythm and want to keep going for as long as possible.
‘I do feel as though I’ve turned a bit of a corner and that has helped with my durability and consistency. Wickets always cheer a bowler up and right now I’m happy.’
He deserves to be. Roland-Jones is one of the good guys who should have played a lot more Test cricket, but he can still enjoy a golden autumn to a career that but for misfortune with so many spells on the sidelines would have given him so much more.
Bumble will be sorely missed
The success story that English cricket does its best to hide is back. The Vitality Blast will again boast big crowds despite talk of slow ticket sales this year and, in the main, a better standard of overseas player than the Hundred. Not that you will be hearing much about it from the ECB marketing team.
Joe Root will play in the first three games, too.
But there will be one glaring absentee from this year’s competition in the form of our very own Bumble.
Witty remarks of David ‘Bumble’ Lloyd will be a glaring absentee from this year’s Vitality Blast
For 20 years, David Lloyd has been the TV face of T20 cricket, embracing it from the start and giving us so many memorable moments.
Bumble’s departure from Sky in the wake of the Azeem Rafiq affair, over comments made in a private Twitter conversation that remain to my mind clumsy yet anything but racist, remains a huge injustice.
There are many who need to be held to account over the Rafiq scandal and thanks to him, English cricket is finally addressing its race issues.
But Bumble is the wrong man to pay the price for the game’s ills and he will be sorely missed on Sky this summer.