Tobias Skelton Roland-Jones
January 29, 1988, Ashford, Middlesex
Right hand bat
Right arm medium fast
Toby Roland-Jones, a throwback to a traditional English seamer, made a startling entry into Test cricket, at 29, when he removed South Africa's top four with his first 33 balls in Test cricket. Roland-Jones dismissed Dean Elgar, Heino Kuhn, Quinton de Kock and, the best of the lot, Hashim Amla, who had made 311 not out in his last Test on this ground, and who was beaten by a leaping delivery. Roland-Jones went on to take five wickets in the innings and eight in the match, the best start to an England bowler's Test career since 2003 when James Kirtley took 8 for 113 against South Africa..
Roland-Jones took 17 wickets at 19.64 in his maiden Test summer, his four Tests showcasing the virtues he had long shown on the county circuit. There were no explosive changes of pace, or showy deliveries, just persistence around off stump around 82/83mph and the ability to move the ball. Some suspected he was an English specialist, but an Ashes tour was assured, only for him to lose the opportunity when he pulled up during a Championship match against Lancashire and was diagnosed with a stress fracture to his lower back with only a week of the season remaining. Even worse followed with a failed comeback for Middlesex early in 2018 which ruled him out of the rest of the season.
Roland-Jones claimed his place in the annals of Middlesex CCC when his hat-trick against Yorkshire at Lord's completed a Middlesex victory in the last session of the 2016 season and brought them their first Championship for 23 years. When Middlesex had last won the title, Angus Fraser, their director of cricket, was a redoubtable seam bowler of similar style, making Roland-Jones' intervention a perfect climax.
Roland-Jones is a tall, strong seam bowler who hails from Ashford in Middlesex. He has a repeatable action and can maintain good economy over long spells at speeds approaching the mid-80s. It was enough, at 28, to attract England's call-up to the squad ahead of the Lord's Test against Pakistan, although he failed to win a place in the final X1, so denying England its first double-barrelled cricketer since Norman 'Mandy' Mitchell-Innes, who made a single Test appearance, against South Africa in 1935.
After failing to win a contract with Surrey, who he represented in second eleven cricket, Roland-Jones crossed the river to take 36 first-class wickets at 19.11 in his debut season for Middlesex in 2010. His potential had been spotted by Fraser whilst playing for Leeds & Bradford University in the Universities final at Lord's the previous year. By the start of 2014, he was considered to be an outsider for England selection and won Lions recognition. His struggled a little in 2014, but against Northamptonshire in May, Roland-Jones produced an impressive performance: he took a career best 6-55 in the first innings, promptly eclipsed it with 6-50 in the second, and thumped 60 off 30 balls for good measure.
A maiden Championship hundred in 2015 was also quite something. Roland-Jones observed Yorkshire's deserved status as newly-crowned county champions and treated it with unexpected disdain as he summoned a freewheeling first-class century which belied his position at No. 10 in Middlesex's batting order.
Yorkshire clearly inspired him to the heights. It was a quickfire 79 and three wickets in the second innings to help Middlesex to victory over Yorkshire that brought him his maiden call-up to England's Test squad for the first Test against Pakistan in July 2016. He finished 2016 with 54 wickets, following 48 and 43 in the previous two seasons, figures which hardly screamed to England "pick me" but which began to get him talked about as a Test contender and which, combined with his dangerous lower middle-order hitting, were proof of his immense usefulness to his county.
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