With the first few weeks of the season dominated by the bowlers, the arrival of the Clydesdale Bank 40 competition, coupled with a couple of days of sunshine, saw the batsmen hit back in county cricket during the last week. Overall, just two bowlers – Charl Willoughby and Tim Bresnan – recorded five-wicket hauls, while the batsmen managed 15 centuries between them.
One of those to prosper was New Zealander Kane Williamson who continued his prolific start to the season for Gloucestershire with centuries against Yorkshire and Leicestershire. The 21 year-old has now scored 390 runs at an average of 65 in five matches for the Gladiators.
Nottinghamshire’s Michael Lumb is another who has continued his good form with the bat. The England World Twenty20 winner hit the week’s top score of 162 and followed that up with 55 at Trent Bridge in the draw against Middlesex to put him in contention for this week’s award.
However this week’s Cricket World County Player of the Week is Ollie Rayner, who put in a superb all-round performance in that same match at Trent Bridge, hitting an unbeaten 143 in the visitors’ first innings total of 300 for nine declared after being sent in as night-watchman. The 26 year-old – who has a first-class batting average of over 27 – made known his displeasure at having been asked to act as night-watchman and said, “Luckily there wasn’t a microphone on me at the time because I was ranting and raving, saying my career’s gone backwards, what am I doing here, this sort of thing.”
Fortunately for him and Middlesex, he was able to channel that annoyance into a career-best innings that came against a bowling attack consisting of three current or former Test match cricketers, and then followed that up with four wickets with his off-spin in the host’s second innings. He also revealed how he had been forced to give up the opportunity to act as best man at his cousin’s wedding in Middlesbrough, saying, “[I] agreed that I was going to do the two days [with the second team] and then go up to Middlesbrough, but I got the go ahead [to play for the first-team] because it was dry.”
Of his bowling, with which he returned match figures of five for 130, he appeared to suggest that it had taken a back seat in recent times as he sought to improve his batting, adding “I am still trying to fight the fact that I like to think of myself as a frontline spinner and not just a batting spinner at the moment. I’ve worked really hard on both [batting and bowling], and I would like to take a few more five-fors, but unfortunately you can’t be one-dimensional these days.”
Rayner – who has the distinction of being the only current first-class cricketer to have been born in Germany – began his career with Sussex and made his second XI debut for them in 2002, before progressing to a first-team spot in 2006. However, opportunities began to disappear after the signing of Monty Panesar from Northamptonshire and he spent much of last season on loan with Middlesex prior to making that move permanent ahead of 2012.
Being a tall man, he relies more on bounce than excessive flight or turn to take wickets, and overall in his first-class career has taken 118 at an average of 35.22 to date. He is also a more than accomplished limited-overs performer, where his good fielding and aggressive lower middle-order batting make him an asset to any side.
© Cricket World 2012