Roland-Jones understanding of toss rule merits as Middlesex bowlers face another slog...

Roland-Jones understanding of toss rule merits as Middlesex bowlers face another slog with Somerset

Just six weeks on from the ECB’s instigation of new coin toss rules for the county game fast bowlers appear to have been sentenced to cricket’s equivalent of penal colony hard labour.

But you won’t find Middlesex’s Toby Roland-Jones joining any chorus from among his throng wanting to evoke curses on the game’s administrators.

The new law giving the visiting captain the option of dispensing with the toss and inserting the hosts already appears to be being exercised as an exception rather than the rule.

The legacy it has brought about however, is clear with bowlers reporting for duty to find biscuit-coloured pitch after biscuit-coloured pitch all with hardly a trace of the grass seamers have come to relish at this time of year, making batting most skippers occupation of choice.

Even cricket’s grand old lady herself, Lord’s, Roland-Jones’ home from home, has fallen under this spell.

The three games so far this season, including the current clash with Somerset which started today being played on some of slowest wickets seen at the home of cricket in many a year.

Former Middlesex skipper Chris Rogers made the most of the latest flat track to hit an unbeaten 104 for the visitors.

However, Roland-Jones put in some hard yakka, taking (2-33) to at least keep the west countrymen within bounds, a solid follow-up to his five-for against Nottinghamshire in the last game at headquarters.

Far from grumbling at a rule change which has produced tracks seemingly weighted against seamers like himself the former England Lions quick extolled the merits of a system where such hauls earn you ‘street cred’ as well as providing a stronger platform for Test cricket.

“It is an interesting one, but I feel there is a big case for having cricket that’s supposed to last the four days and where you feel like if you take wickets you have earned them,” he said, having hot-footed it from the obligatory post-day ice bath and hot shower.

“It can be tough at times and bowlers up and down the country have had days where they might have been ruing the decision if you like, but I can see, realistically, it promotes something closer to what you get at the top level of cricket which is a hard-fought game where you have to pave your way. So all in all I can understand its merits.

“Don’t get me wrong you would take a grey day in April or May with a green top, but at the moment that doesn’t look like the way it is going, so there is an element of embracing the challenge that lies ahead.”

Commendable fortitude from a bowler increasingly in the mould of his director of cricket, former England man Angus Fraser.

But is there a case for arguing the game’s top brass has tinkered with a rule to stop the production of wickets where games are over in two days?

If so has it been to only to end up with ones doctored to the other extreme where it is still not a fair contest, positive result become the exception rather than the norm and fourth days produce almost meaningless cricket, hardly a draw to traditional lovers of the game at a time when T20 is increasingly viewed as king of England’s summer sport formats.

Roland-Jones is not convinced: “There’s certainly an argument to be had about that and I feel certainly counties in Division Two where there is nothing to lose and nowhere to go down from could play the game of producing result wickets as they like,” he added.

“That said, over the course of the past few years we have played on some wickets that have done a bit, but nothing really through production.

“You just sometimes find a wicket that can do more.”


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