Uxbridge Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - JON BATHAM tms-sport@trin­i­tymir­ror.com Twit­ter: @el­lis_red

IT HAS never been more im­por­tant for Mid­dle­sex to crack the game’s 50-over for­mat, ac­cord­ing to Toby Roland-Jones.

The ten­ants of Lord’s be­gin their lat­est Royal Lon­don Cup cam­paign to­mor­row, at home to Sus­sex, and have yet to progress from the group stages since the com­pe­ti­tion started three years ago.

Hav­ing been shunted from the back end of the sea­son to the front, the cup is now the first piece of sil­ver­ware on of­fer.

For quick bowler Roland-Jones it be­comes a com­pe­ti­tion with an im­por­tance be­yond it­self, of­fer­ing the op­por­tu­nity to gain that most pre­cious of com­modi­ties – mo­men­tum – for the rest of the cam­paign.

And hav­ing drawn the first two games of their County Cham­pi­onship de­fence – the sec­ond af­ter be­ing thwarted by the weather on the fi­nal day against Es­sex this week – some im­pe­tus is needed.

“This year we have a chance to use the Royal Lon­don as a bit of a launch­ing pad for the rest of the sea­son,” said Roland-Jones.

“It’s an ex­cit­ing com­pe­ti­tion for us be­cause we feel there is still a good amount of un­tapped poten- tial in the squad when it comes to the one-day game.

“If we can play some good cricket it could help us in the long run across all for­mats, in terms of giv­ing a lot of con­fi­dence.”

Last year was the clos­est Mid­dle­sex have come to that elu­sive knock­out-stage spot, rain-af­fected defeat at the hands of Lon­don ri­vals Sur­rey in the fi­nal group game see­ing them miss out once more.

Back then, the ECB saw fit to in­ter­min­gle the com­pe­ti­tion with T20 Blast fix­tures but this time coun­ties can eat, drink and sleep the 50-over for­mat with eight qual­i­fy­ing games over the next three weeks. For a man like Roland-Jones, a piv­otal fig­ure for Mid­dle­sex in all three forms of the game, the op­por­tu­nity to be sin­gle-minded is a use­ful tweak to the sched­ule.

“With it all be­ing in a block, it gives us a month of hon­ing the craft and build­ing upon form in the for­mat,” he added. “It should help a lot of us in terms of nar­row­ing the fo­cus a lit­tle bit.”

In-form bats­man Ste­vie Eski­nazi will miss the first week or so of the com­pe­ti­tion af­ter in­jur­ing a fin­ger against Es­sex but pace-man Harry Pod­more is in the mix for se­lec­tion af­ter re­turn­ing from his loan spell with Glam­or­gan.

Mid­dle­sex quick bowler Toby Roland-Jones Steve Porter WL161785

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