SLIP MASTER RAYNER BATS OFF BOTHAM COMPARISON
SNAPPING THEM UP IN THE SLIPS NATURAL FOR OLLIE
OLLIE RAYNER declined this week to place himself in the Ian Botham class of slip catchers – but admits it’s an art which has sometimes saved his place in the Middlesex team.
The off-spinner further enhanced his reputation as one of the county game’s best close to the wicket fielders with four in the first innings of last week’s draw with Surrey.
Both his physical stature and unorthodox positioning at second slip - well in advance of first - are reminiscent of England’s greatest all-rounder, who excelled in England’s close catching cordon of the 1970s and 80s. Rayner is reluctant to draw comparisons but knows how crucial his ability to throw himself around and get hands on those outside edges has become.
“I don’t know about comparisons with Botham,” he said.
“Slip-catching is just one of those instinctive things. I’m pretty unorthodox in the way I set up and it has put people off in the past as I look the wrong way.
“It’s probably not a technique which you would coach young kids but it is all about being in the best position you can be in to catch the ball.
“I know at times throughout my career my slip catching has got me in the team and that is half the battle. You have got to get in before you can prove what you can do.
“So, I’ve always done a lot of work on my catching because it is another string to my bow.
“Some days the bowling might not quite go to plan but you still have an important role to play in the slips, because it’s better to only have to take 10 wickets than dropping a few and having to take 12 or 13.”
Strangely for a man so adept at the art, the 31-year-old revealed it was a role he discovered by accident, having been a boundary boards patroller early in his career.
“I was initially just grazing down at third man when I was younger and they couldn’t be bothered to change everyone around every time for a left-hand, right-hand combination, so I came into gulley, took a catch and never looked back from there,” he added.“I had to make my way from gully to third slip and then to second and that is where I’ve stayed.”
Rayner’s next opportunity to showcase his catching prowess will come in the Specsavers County Championship Division One clash against last year’s runners-up Somerset in a game which starts this Friday.
Middlesex will be without both Dawid Malan and Steven Finn for the match as they are away representing England Lions.
On the plus side though, Tim Murtagh and Paul Stirling become available after completing their international duties with Ireland while opener Sam Robson could return following his recent hamstring injury.
Hands like buckets: Ollie Rayner fields off his own bowling this time in Middlesex’s County Championship clash with Surrey