As the curtain fell on the 2016 County Championship, old-Hamptonian Toby Roland-Jones was in the process of tearing through Yorkshire’s tail end to win Middlesex’s first title for 23 years.
Roland-Jones had played a vital part in Middlesex’s possible victory, and had grown to become a key man in his sides’ campaign. Playing as an opening bowler and lower-order hitter, when captain James Franklin needed wickets, he turned to Toby Roland-Jones.
Having won the past two County Championship titles, Yorkshire were set a target of 240 runs in 40 overs.
Roland-Jones began his heroics with the wicket of England international Adam Lyth, before taking the key wicket of dangerman Tim Bresnan to leave Yorkshire 153-5. Captain Andrew Gale then fell to Roland-Jones for just 22, and Yorkshire needed 80 runs in eight overs with just four wickets in hand to seal their third consecutive title.
Middlesex skipper James Franklin opted for Roland-Jones to bring home the title – three wickets were needed, six overs to get them. The seamer picked up the wicket of Yorkshire tail-ender Steven Patterson, and an over passed before Roland-Jones could return to the attack.
The Lord’s crowd were on the edge of their seats, and soon they were off their seats as Roland-Jones picked up the wickets of Andrew Hodd and Ryan Sidebottom to complete a historical hat-trick, and Middlesex won their first title for 23 years.
Roland-Jones said that the title victory was “quite simply, as good as it gets.”
A week after Roland-Jones’ title-winning heroics, fellow old-Hamptonian Zafar Ansari was selected for his second England test tour, to Bangladesh. Having been picked a year previously, the left-arm-spinner was left heartbroken after breaking his thumb on the day of his call-up.
Ansari proceeded to be selected for England’s second test against Bangladesh, picking up 2/76 in the second innings – being a notable performer in his sides’ disappointing, losing display. He was perhaps unlucky to miss out on picking up a 5-wicket-haul on debut, missing out as a result of four missed catches off his bowling.
Ansari’s winter tours again ended in disappointment, as he left India due to injury after the Third Test. Despite his misfortune so far in England colours, the HSC has little doubt that Ansari can become a key member of the Test team in years to come.