Rayner hopes to spur Middlesex on to late promotion push
PUBLISHED: 13:00 15 August 2018
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Spinner back from loan spell and ready to aid Seaxes
Ollie Rayner feels revitalised by his brief loan spell with Hampshire — and ready to bowl Middlesex right back into the County Championship promotion tussle.
The experienced off-spinner answered injury-hit Hampshire’s SOS call back in June and featured in two Division One matches, taking 4-54 against Yorkshire, before returning to the Middlesex line-up last month.
Now the 32-year-old hopes to play a leading role as the Lord’s side attempt to salvage their season by making a late surge in Division Two, starting on Sunday at Northamptonshire.
“It was absolutely brilliant for me to go out on loan,” Rayner recalled. “There’d been a lot going on at the club and getting down to Southampton was like a breath of fresh air.
“Mason Crane had done his back, Brad Taylor had done his ankle and Liam Dawson was playing for England Lions, so I think they looked around to see who had a surplus spinner.
“I was quite flattered and I felt it could only be a good thing. I’m a big fan of the loan system and I’d encourage anyone to go out on loan if they get the opportunity.
“It’s good to see how things operate at a different club and there’s nothing to lose — you just do your thing and don’t think too much about what else is going on.
“I bowled a lot of overs for Hampshire and found a bit of rhythm. It put a massively positive spin on my cricket and I came back to Middlesex reinvigorated.”
Rayner’s upbeat approach can also be partly explained by the fact he has not been involved in yet another disastrous T20 campaign for the Seaxes during recent weeks.
And he accepts there is an onus on himself and other senior pros such as Tim Murtagh and Sam Robson to help lift some of their shell-shocked colleagues, drained by a run of 10 defeats in 12 Vitality Blast games.
Currently fifth in the Championship table, Middlesex have little margin for error as they attempt to narrow a 34-point gap to second-placed Sussex.
“Put simply, it’s been shambolic, but we’ve got to put the T20 behind us and focus on the rest of the season,” said Rayner.
“Just like winning’s a habit, so is losing, and that repeated feeling you’ve been beaten at the end of the game has a negative effect on any professional.
“That’s where some of us like Murts, Robbo and myself are going to have to try and pull them through. If we can get the team spirit to where it needs to be, we can still have a good finish to the season.
“I think we’re in a good position in the Championship because we’re underdogs at the moment. We can only give our best and see where that takes us.
“If it gets us into the top two, brilliant — if not, we can at least finish the season strongly and give ourselves something to build on next year.”