New ball poses no problems for Middlesex paceman

13:26 11 April 2012

Toby Roland-Jones

Toby Roland-Jones

© Sarah Williams 2011

It’s not just a different standard of cricket Middlesex must adapt to this summer – they have a different ball to deal with as well.

County Championship Division One fixtures are played with a Dukes ball rather than the Tiflex brand Middlesex used in their promotion campaign last year.

But their opening match of the season, a six-wicket defeat by Somerset in an uncharacteristically low-scoring encounter at Taunton, suggests that Middlesex’s batsmen, rather than the bowlers, are struggling to adjust.

In between scraping totals of 246 and 175, the Lord’s side dismissed their hosts for 350 and seamer Toby Roland-Jones, who took 2-76, feels the change will be minimal for Middlesex’s bowlers.

“Last year in Division One, it seemed that taking 20 wickets in a game was what teams found toughest, but we feel we’ve got an attack here that can do that,” Roland-Jones told london24.com.

“The major difference is the Dukes don’t swing for as long – you could have the Tiflex swinging about 60 overs in and, on the right day, they really do misbehave.

“I’ve found the Dukes still swing and move off the wicket, so I don’t think we’ll have too many problems. Whichever ball you use, you’ve got to stick to what you know and put it in the right area.

“We’ve got a long string of quicks at Middlesex and, while the squad’s as close as I’ve ever seen it here, it’s also going to be a very competitive summer for spots across all formats.”

Roland-Jones is determined to be available for one of those places right through the season after being sidelined by a shin splints problem for a significant part of the 2011 campaign.

Despite that setback, the 24-year-old still picked up a healthy haul of 30 wickets and was rewarded with a contract extension that will keep him at Lord’s until 2014.

“It was still great to be involved in a successful season, but hopefully this year I’ll make more of a contribution,” said Roland-Jones. “The prospect of injury is not something you want to think of.

“Obviously I’m desperate to have a season where I’m fully fit and able to challenge throughout the year and I’ve trained hard to try and make it so.”

A more specific target for the Middlesex paceman this season is to build on a number of improved performances with the bat by notching his first half-century in county cricket.

Roland-Jones hit a creditable 23 not out in the first innings at Taunton, batting in tandem with Tim Murtagh to ensure that the last two Middlesex wickets realised a valuable 53.

“It’s really important that nine, 10 and 11 are making contributions – whether it’s runs or time at the crease, making sure we don’t capitulate and allowing other people to get what they can out of the innings,” he added.

“I’ve been working on my batting – last year I did night-watchman a lot and it’s definitely a role that I enjoy. I had a couple of 20s as night-watchman last year and frustratingly managed to get out to spin.

“But as long as I last the evening, I’ve got an opportunity to go out in the morning and enjoy myself. Fifty would be nice – I feel I’ve definitely got it in my game but it’s a case of finding a way to get there.”

Roland-Jones is included in a 13-man squad for Middlesex’s County Championship clash against neighbours Surrey, which gets under way on Thursday at Lord’s.

Middlesex have made just change from the 13 who travelled to Taunton last weekend, with spinnner Tom Smith replacing Adam London.

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