Ollie Rayner was preparing himself for second-team and club cricket at the start of this week.
Then, with Mike Yardy taking a few days out as he continues his battle with depression, came an unexpected opportunity in Sussex Sharks’ Twenty20 team against Somerset on Tuesday night. And boy, did he take it!
For the second time this season a Sussex player took five wickets in a Twenty20 match, only the third time that has been achieved, and Rayner’s figures of 5 for 18 were the 11th best in the competition’s history.
But Rayner wasn’t finished there. He also took two catches, including one off his own bowling, as Somerset were dismissed for 91, the second lowest total in games against Sussex. And then, to round things off, he struck Steve Kirby high over extra cover to the boundary to seal a four-wicket win with 15 balls to spare.
No wonder then that the man of the match cheque already had his name on it long before the presentation itself.
In 17 previous Twenty20 Cup games the 6ft 5in off-spinner had only taken 19 wickets and never more than one in an innings.
Conditions favoured the slow bowlers as the pitch was being used for the third time. But to take five wickets in 15 balls was simply outstanding, especially after his first over, right at the start of the Somerset innings, had gone for eight including a six by Marcus Trescothick.
He said: “It was an opportunity I probably didn’t expect to get but it came up and hopefully I have taken it. I just want to play more cricket for Sussex across all formats.
“I went to Middlesex on loan at the start of the season and got some games under my belt which was great. But this is my county. I’m by no means the finished article but I feel I know my game now and I’m a bit more switched on.”
Of his five victims there is no doubt which gave him the most satisfaction. “I like to get left-handers out but I’d never got Marcus Trescothick before,” he said. “Although it was a fantastic catch on the boundary by Luke Wright I’m delighted he is in the pocket now!”
Not so long ago that £250 man-of-the-match cheque might have been spent as quickly as the bubbly was drunk, but not now. The more mature Rayner will be putting the money to a much more practical use.
“In the past it would have gone down town with me but I need to repair a chip on my car windscreen and the excess is £250. I’m much more sensible these days!”