Revitalised Rayner eyes a maiden Lord’s century

Ollie Rayner
Ollie Rayner

Eastbourne all rounder Ollie Rayner said he has no regrets after leaving his home town club Sussex and heading for Middlesex.

Rayner, 26, was forced to seek pastures new after cementing a regular first team place at Sussex proved problematic.

As a big-hitting young off-break spinner making his way into the professional game, he patiently waited for his opportunity at Hove and learned from one of cricket’s all time greats, Mushtaq Ahmed.

Mushtaq eventually called an end to his career after 303 first class matches and an incredible 1,388 wickets in 2007.

A nagging knee injury forced the Pakistan legend to retire and many felt Rayner would be the man to help fill the void. However, a prolonged run in the side rarely materialised and Rayner admitted he never felt like an established first teamer during his five years at Hove.

In 2011 Rayner joined Middlesex on loan for the start season. After a brief stint back at Sussex, He returned on loan in August for the remainder of the season.

The six-foot five all rounder cracked 266 runs and snared 11 wickets in eight County Championship games for Middlesex.

That was enough to prompt the Lord’s based side to make the deal permanent and Rayner was happy to sign a three-year contract.

This season Rayner has played four LV County Championship matches scoring 191 runs including two half-centuries at an average of 31.83.

With the ball his off-breaks have claimed four wickets from 76 overs on seamer-friendly wickets.

Speaking during a rain break during Middlesex’s LV Championship match at Nottinghamshire on Wednesday, He said, “I am happy with how the season has started and hopefully a lot more runs and wickets can follow.

“I’m loving my cricket at the moment and I’m feeling very settled in the side and in London. When I’m left out of the team I can see the reasons why. A couple of times this season I have looked at wicket and you know three seamers are going to play. You have to agree with the captain.

“I feel like an established first team player and it’s a good feeling. That was not always the case at Sussex. I was getting frustrated there but they are my home town club and I have no regrets. It was time to move on and I’m glad I did.”

Rayner admitted he had a few reservations about leaving his flat in Brighton and making the move to London. But the three-year contract gave him the security he required.

He is currently renting Sussex batsman Ed Joyce’s flat in Queen’s Park, London, which is 30 minutes away from Lord’s.

Rayner added, “It has worked out well. Ed gave me the flat on mates rates as he is trying to sell it. It’s a perfect arrangement while my girlfriend and I look to buy a place of our own in London.

“My girlfriend has found a job as a primary school teacher in Highgate and she loves the shopping in London. It’s been a good move for us both.”

Despite upping sticks to the city Rayner keeps in touch with the Eastbourne sport scene.

And although Eastbourne cricketers suffered a miserable start to their 2012 Sussex Premier League season against Horsham last Saturday, he believes there is too much talent in the side for them to struggle this season.

“On paper they have a very good side. They have made some good signings and Mark (Tomsett) is always good for a few runs.

“I try and keep in touch with the local sport. I have an app on my phone called New Star Soccer.

“I currently play for Eastbourne Borough. I’m doing really well, Spurs and Everton both wanted to sign me but I decided to stick with the Eastbourne!”

Back on the cricket pitch Rayner has remained focused and has set himself some simple targets this season.

The priority is to maintain his position in the side for County Champs, the pro 40 and the Twenty20 fixtures but also to get his first century at the ‘home of cricket.’

“I have not got that 100 as yet so that is always a goal of mine. I would love to do that at Lord’s this season.”