The ball is in the crowd, Chris Morris is furious, and Toby Roland-Jones is laughing.

South Africa have decided that Roland-Jones is not someone to worry over. When he arrived at the crease, the field for Ben Stokes spread like they are worried about catching whatever Vernon Philander has. Roland-Jones is treated like a No. 11, not a man who made a first-class hundred two seasons ago. To call Roland-Jones an allrounder would be slightly overestimating his batting. He can bat, a bit. His first-class average is 22.

Morris had already tried to bowl full and Roland-Jones had already whipped him away neatly. Now Morris was going short at the body, but it's down the leg side and Roland-Jones just swings on it. It was a poor ball, and a top edge, there is a bit of luck, there is a ball in the second level of the Bedser Stand. Twenty-five from 25 balls. All Roland-Jones could do was laugh.


The last day of the 2016 County Championship became a magical occasion as the mighty Yorkshire, county champions and England players everywhere, took on a plucky Middlesex team. Yorkshire win lots of titles, Middlesex hadn't won one in over 20 years. On the final day, despite it being a huge chase, Yorkshire were still going for the total and they got off to a flier until Roland-Jones took Adam Lyth. But then Yorkshire fought back, through Tim Bresnan, who had made an incredible hundred in the first innings. They needed 87 with just over ten overs and six wickets in hand.

Then Roland-Jones trapped Bresnan, which felt like slaying a mythological beast in this game. But he wasn't finished. He picked up more and more wickets as he destroyed what was left of Yorkshire's fight. And then he went into overdrive. It was as if the entire game became about him. He got Azeem Rafiq hitting on straight up in the air, then next over clean bowled Andrew Hodd, and suddenly Middlesex needed one wicket to win it all, and Roland-Jones needed one to get a hat-trick. Seconds later Ryan Sidebottom's leg stump is gone and Roland-Jones is running around Lord's with a hat-trick and a County championship.


James Anderson was taken out of the attack after three overs. And not on a typical day, but on an overcast day when the ball was swinging and seaming.

To come on after your country's greatest wicket-taker has been dragged from the attack to bowl your first over is quite some pressure. Roland-Jones isn't some fire-breathing dragon fast bowler. He's a proper English seamer. He's got a slightly eccentric run to the wicket where he elongates every stride. It makes you almost wonder about what happens on the days it all goes wrong. There is a rhythm to his run up that you wouldn't teach to anyone. And you can't help but wonder what might happen to him on those days on flatter pitches when the ball doesn't swing, and his high-wire rhythm run up isn't right.

But it isn't that sort of day, and the first ball he hits the crease and bowls at a friendly pace for International cricket, the low to mid-80s, the sort of pace where you need help, assistance, sideways movement. And that's what happens. Second ball, Dean Elgar gets an edge and it just loops out short of a fielder. But then Heino Kuhn gets hold of a loose one, the sort of ball nervous bowlers deliver in their first over.

Next over Elgar is out.

That would be enough for a beautiful day, Roland-Jones hasn't even begun yet. Kuhn is trying to work a straight one across the line, he misses it, he ends up at silly point trying to work out where the ball is, but he's plumb in front. Kuhn's his only real hope is that Roland-Jones has nothing behind the line, but a scrap of rubber is, and Kuhn is wicket number two.

The last time Hashim Amla was batting in a Test at The Oval he made 311 not out in the sixth-longest innings in Test history. He batted for days, months. The locals still say on a sunny day, when the pitch dries out, and the batsmen are well set, you can still hear Amla timing the ball through cover point. Yet, Roland-Jones almost had him first ball, England tried a review based on the fact the ball hit his pad and he's Hashim Amla. But it's umpire's call.

A few overs later there is a ball that even Amla can't handle. It angles in, bounces straight up, fades away and takes some glove before Amla is taking his hand off the bat. If the other wickets are county pro wickets, this one looks a bit more Test cricket. Roland-Jones is running down the pitch like the boy with the golden ticket; he buries his smiling face into Stuart Broad's chest.

There will be one more when Quinton de Kock doesn't show Roland-Jones much respect as tries to work him away on the leg side and is caught at point. He has 4 for 20 at that point. People go running looking for records just at the point he stops taking wickets. Not that it matters, the Toby Roland-Jones magic was finished, but only after he'd finished South Africa.

Later the ball is dropped out on the leg side and Maharaj takes off for a single. From mid-on comes in the tall and gangly Roland-Jones, who picks up the ball and flings it across his body at the stumps. The throw is late, wide, and flies away to the boundary for five runs. Anderson is furious, and he gives the sort of look that destroys young debutants, but Roland-Jones has handy runs, a huge six, four wickets. Hell, he got Hashim Amla out. He shrugs off the four overthrows. The worst James Anderson face ain't gonna bother him today.


When Elgar edges the ball through to Jonny Bairstow, all the men behind the wicket instantly scream. Bairstow throws the ball up in the air and jumps up and down like a mad man. Roland-Jones doesn't. He didn't appeal, or scream, he just took in a sharp breath and his face all but said, 'Oh, that was close.' His first Test wicket was given without him even appealing. His initial facial expression isn't elation, it's shock. Finally, he runs down the wicket grinning to celebrate a wicket he can barely believe he has just taken.

But there is a review by Elgar who is sure he didn't hit it. The replays say otherwise, and Elgar is sent on his way. Roland-Jones is in the middle of the England huddle, and he has a Test wicket, and as his team-mates embrace him he laughs.

Roland-Jones couldn't believe today happened, and when he thought about it, he just laughed.

Jarrod Kimber is a writer for ESPNcricinfo. @ajarrodkimber