By Luke Jefferies
Toby Roland-Jones has enjoyed an impressive year, making his ODI debut against South Africa before starring in the test series with the same opponents. He now has four test caps to his name, despite a frustrating stress fracture in his back which ruled him out of the Ashes.
Toby attended Hampton between 1999 and 2006, playing 1st XI cricket for the School from the age of 15. He played as a batsman for School and junior Middlesex teams, with no intention of becoming the kind of opening bowler he is now.
His best season as a professional cricketer was in 2012, when he finished with 61 wickets. It helped him get picked for the England Lions, although injuries kept him out for the following season, disrupting his progress.
During the 2014 season against Northamptonshire, Roland-Jones made a name for himself with match figures of 12 for 105, to go along with his blistering 60 off 30 deliveries.
However, he only took 43 wickets during the rest of the season, which was unlikely to impress the England selectors. The 2015 season followed in a similar fashion, as he scored his maiden Championship hundred against County Champions Yorkshire, batting at ten. However, just 48 wickets meant he wasn’t quite in contention for an England spot.
A year on, at the tail end of the 2016 season, Roland-Jones’ Middlesex had the chance to win their first County Championship for 23 years. The final game of the season against Yorkshire had arrived.
A draw and Somerset were champions, yet if either Yorkshire or Middlesex won in their clash, they could become champions instead. With five overs to play, and three wickets left for Middlesex to take, Somerset were preparing to celebrate.
Up stepped Roland-Jones to take his famous hat-trick and hand Middlesex a dramatic win. Roland-Jones was now a hero amongst all Middlesex fans, and his achievement was now recognised by England, as he got his first call-up for the tour of Pakistan.
Although he failed to make an appearance, it was a step in the right direction for the man from Ashford. He went on to play for the England Lions that winter in Sri Lanka scoring a composed 82 runs from ninth in the batting order.
Later that year, an injury to England pace bowler, Mark Wood, meant that there was one extra space in the England squad and Roland-Jones was the chosen man.
He made his debut in the Third Test against South Africa. He couldn’t have dreamt of a better start. Ripping through South Africa’s top order, he took four wickets in his first 33 deliveries, one of those being Hashim Amla.
He finished with eight wickets in the game, and had finally cemented his place in this England bowling attack for the foreseeable future. His ticket to Australia for the Ashes was virtually booked, but an injury in the penultimate county game of the season undermined his chances.
It turned out to be a stress fracture in the lower back, which meant Toby Roland-Jones spent his winter in England, recovering his fitness.
However, there is no doubt that the last year and a half have been the making of the former Hampton boy, and hopefully, his recovery from injury will bring good news soon.