Over the next term, HSC will be attempting to discover the identity of Hampton’s Greatest Sporting Moment, with your help. This article reflects on Toby Roland-Jones OH (2006) and his County Championship-winning hat-trick at Lord’s in 2016. This will compete against three other moments in Group Two. Vote in our Twitter poll on Friday to decide your favourite moments – the winner will progress to the quarter-final stage!
Hampton’s Greatest Sporting Moments Group Two: Toby Roland-Jones’ County Championship-winning hat-trick
It was the most sensational conclusion to a national sporting competition since Michael Thomas stunned the Kop with the breakaway goal that gave Arsenal the 2 – 0 win they needed to wrest the title from Liverpool’s grasp in the final minute of the final match of the season. And that was nearly thirty years ago.
Middlesex went into the final round of the 2016 County Championship third-favourites to take the title for the first time in 23 years. If Somerset beat Nottinghamshire at home, then a draw at Lord’s would send the title to the west country for the first time.
But Yorkshire were Middlesex’s opponents at Lord’s, champions in the last two seasons, and aiming for the hat-trick of titles that victory at HQ would guarantee. After both sides had batted, Middlesex were 120 behind on first innings and seemingly out of the picture.
But hope was not lost. Gambling on Yorkshire going all-out for victory when the time came, Middlesex batted sluggishly on the final morning, making up the first-innings deficit, then forging ahead after a spot of “buffet bowling” from the visitors.
Down at Taunton, frowns were deepening as it became clear that victory at Lord’s for either side would consign the west country team to second place in the table. Back at Lord’s, the reigning champions were asked to score an ambitious 240 in forty overs to take the title back to Leeds.
Roland-Jones made the early break-through when he had England opener Adam Lyth caught at slip. Wickets continued to fall until Ashes hero Tim Bresnan began to put bat to ball, but when he was lbw to Roland-Jones at 153 for four, Yorkshire still needed 87 off ten overs to win. It was here that the Old Hamptonian paceman took matters into his own hands.
With Yorkshire seven wickets down and capable of batting out the remaining six overs for a draw, Roland-Jones had Rafiq caught behind off the sixth ball of his eleventh over and then clean-bowled Hodd and Sidebottom with the first two deliveries of his twelfth to finish the innings with six for 54, and ten for 127 in the match. Cometh the hour, cometh the man.
This extraordinary burst of penetrative fast bowling launched the Hampton old boy into a different league of sporting celebrity. The following morning he was interviewed on the Today programme on Radio Four; later that winter he was selected as one of Wisden’s Five Cricketers of the Year; the following season he was picked for England and proceeded to make short work of a formidable South African batting line-up.
Alas, an opening bowler’s lot is not always a happy one, and injuries since have restricted Toby’s progress. But for sheer drama and impact, his deeds on an unforgettable late-summer afternoon at Lord’s in September 2016 will take some beating.