Ollie Rayner is relishing an extended run of County Championship games at the start of what he considers to be a pivotal season in his career.
The 25-year-old off-spinner is on loan at second division pacesetters Middlesex from Sussex at least until the end of May.
With Monty Panesar the first choice spinner at Hove, Rayner knew his chance of any extended run in Sussex’s Championship team during the opening weeks of the season were slim.
As it turns out it has been one of the driest Springs on record and Panesar wheeled away for 50 overs in this week’s Championship game against Lancashire and Sussex used part-time tweakers Chris Nash and Luke Wells for 15 overs.
But Rayner has no regrets. He has played in each of Middlesex’s Championship games and although he has not bowled as many overs as he would have hoped it is hardly surprising given the early-season form of the Seaxes’ seamers.
He went into the game against Surrey this week top of the batting averages after scoring his first Championship half-century since 2009 and those big mitts have gobbled up seven catches at second slip off a rampant Middlesex attack.
Rayner said: “When Middlesex made the approach I didn’t have to think about it really. I knew early-season that I might not bowl loads of overs but it is better than second XI cricket and I feel I’m making an all-round contribution.
“I’m really enjoying being around the Middlesex guys. We’re playing good cricket, the atmosphere in the dressing room is superb and I like the role I am playing. I haven’t bowled hundreds of overs yet but I am happy with the way it’s coming out.”
Rayner’s loan arrangement will be reviewed during May and he is due to come back to Sussex in time for the Twenty20 Cup, when Panesar is unlikely to figure.
But he is keeping his long-term options open. He is out of contract at the end of the season and realises the importance at this stage of his career of playing regularly, whoever it is for.
He added: “I love Sussex, don’t get me wrong. All my family and my girlfriend are there, I live a couple of minutes from the ground and I have been at Sussex since I was a kid. But I’m out of contract and I have to keep my options open. At the moment all I’m interested in is playing as much cricket as I can.”