Rayner’s mov­ing nearer to Test call

The Cricket Paper - - NEWS & VIEWS - By Chris Bailey

THE OL­LIE Rayner fan club swells with ev­ery be­nign ball that Eng­land serve up to Vi­rat Kohli and com­pany in In­dia.

He has prised the Test door open a lit­tle fur­ther af­ter touch­ing back down in Blighty with a Lions tour un­der his belt – but the Mid­dle­sex off-spin­ner in­sists a call-up is not con­sum­ing his thoughts.

That Moeen Ali re­turned mis­er­able fig­ures of 2-174 in Mum­bai, while his coun­ter­part Ravi Ash­win took 12 wick­ets, sug­gests Eng­land missed yet another trick by fail­ing to call up a spe­cial­ist spin­ner in place of the in­jured Za­far An­sari.

The mis­ery in Mum­bai prompted Nasser Hus­sain to bang the drum for Rayner and Som­er­set left-armer Jack Leach.

As the clamour for his in­clu­sion grows, Rayner, 31, is tak­ing it all in stride.

“It’s a very dan­ger­ous place to be when you start think­ing about it,” said Rayner, who took 51 wick­ets for ti­tle-win­ning Mid­dle­sex last sea­son. “If it turns up down the line then it’s a great bonus, rather than it be­ing a dis­ap­point­ment if it doesn’t hap­pen.

“Twice this win­ter it’s shown you can get your chance – Keaton Jen­nings got se­lected while with the Lions and Gareth Batty played at 39. It shows that they will never close the door if they want to shake up the team.

“I said at the start of the year that it was my last-chance sa­loon, and if I could prove my­self, I could be in a good place. But if it turns out the Lions tour has just made me a bet­ter county cricket player, then I’m happy with that.”

Rayner worked with ECB lead spin coach Peter Such to de­velop his top-spin while in Dubai as, mea­sur­ing 6ft5, he ad­mit­tedly has trou­ble mix­ing up the flight of his bowl­ing.

That Rayner had his best sea­son so far af­ter the coin toss rule was changed was no co­in­ci­dence, as he bowled some 400 more balls in the Cham­pi­onship.

“Some peo­ple would say I’ve im­proved and over the last year I prob­a­bly have – slightly,” said Rayner. “When I was younger I was ar­guably bet­ter than I am now, be­fore I had to do some cor­rec­tional work in my ac­tion.

“I came up to Mid­dle­sex when I was 25 to be a front-line spin­ner and I needed to get out of the en­vi­ron­ment at Sus­sex. I was only ever go­ing to be sec­ond in line be­hind Mush­taq Ahmed.

“But if you bowl more balls, you’ve got more chance of tak­ing wick­ets.

“The cap­tain has used me well and I’m en­joy­ing things like bowl­ing be­fore lunch – I’m en­joy­ing be­ing given that re­spon­si­bil­ity with the ball.”

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