Jun 7 2012 By Jon Batham
OLLIE Rayner claimed this week he was thriving in the tough battle for places with his adopted county Middlesex.
The spinning all-rounder admitted there was a time with his native Sussex when the expression ‘good competition for places’ was just a euphemism for ‘I’m terrified of being dropped.’
However, helped by some explosive wielding of the willow coupled with some useful wickets, Rayner is slowly proving a pivotal figure in the lower middle-order for the blossoming tenants of Lord’s and says his cricket is in a happy place just now.
He said: "At Sussex I’m not sure competition and playing in fear of your place was a good thing, always being worried about your spot.
"At Middlesex they give you a pretty good idea of how you are travelling with very honest feedback and you can gauge how you are going from there."
One of the secrets of the German-born off-spinner’s new found confidence has been coming to understand his role in the team and its game-plan.
On early season wickets with seam bowling to the fore the 26-year-old has been asked to bottle up an end and frustrate the opposition allowing the pace-men to rotate and wreak their damage at the other end.
Without the pressure to take bundles of wickets Rayner has felt able to find a consistent rhythm.
And the runs he has made in the lower middle order - his 69 in victory over Sussex last week the latest case in point - have helped him cement his place.
He added: "I’ve obviously excelled more with the bat than the ball this year, but having said that I think I have bowled really well and done my job.
"You can look at in in different ways - some bowlers take loads of wickets while others do a job their captain requires of them and I think I have done well in the latter department.
"I took a few wickets up at Liverpool and before that at Nottingham, but Lord’s is a bit of a different baby in that it is not really set up for spin.
"I’ve been doing a good job at holding up an end which gives some of the quick boys a breather."