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Behind Closed Doors – Ollie Rayner (May 2014)

OLLIE RAYNER IS OUR ‘BEHIND CLOSED DOORS’ COLUMNIST FOR MAY, AND TALKS US THROUGH WHAT’S BEEN HAPPENING OVER THE FIRST MONTH OF THE SEASON, INCLUDING THE CELEBRATIONS AFTER THE WINS AGAINST NOTTS AND YORKSHIRE!

First up it was great to get all the boys back together with hundreds of fans and members at Lord’s for what was an amazing 150th Anniversary lunch. All of the boys looked the business in our new tailored suits, so a massive thanks to McCann Bespoke for providing them. They must be seriously good tailors, to have made one to fit our second eleven scorer Martyn Fryer – heavy roll of material there!

It was great to get up on stage with Finny and Murts as the panellists for a Q&A chat with Gus. It was the perfect opportunity for us to all to pile into the BFG and give him some grief; which is only fair after all that he dishes out to us over the years.

After a brilliant lunch all of us boys went out for beers in town, which was a giggle, although after this, I’m ashamed to say that my suit didn’t look quite so pristine the next morning, when I fell over it, finding it lying in a pile at the end of my bed.

Next it was off to Hove to play against Sussex, in what were hideous weather conditions. Playing Sussex in July, when you can have an ice-cream on the pier or a nice stroll along the front in the sunshine is lovely. Playing in early April, when it’s freezing cold, raining and miserable is less so.

I’m not going to dwell on this one, as we’ve mentally put it all behind us, but suffice to say, we all know that we underperformed and all knew that we had to improve. If you want my opinion, the addition of a tall spinner would have swung it our way, but hey, that wasn’t to be.

After Sussex it was back to base here at Lord’s, where we had a good chat about righting the wrongs, drew a line under the Sussex game and got our heads down for the game against Nottinghamshire.

It was great to bounce back in such style against Notts. We played good positive cricket and really took the game to them. Notts are a really strong outfit and after the horror show in Sussex, it was good to get back here to fortress Lord’s and dominate our opponents. We all love Lord’s and all of the comforts that come with playing at the home of cricket. Oh those lunches and deserts, how I’ve missed them over the winter months. Beating Notts when we were a man down, as a result of Bergy’s injury, made it even more special. The bowlers really grafted there. Good luck to both Bergy and Ollie Wilkin for speedy recoveries from their injuries.

Winning early on day four was a right touch, as it gave us the afternoon off. Naturally a celebratory beer or two went down in the Tavern, although nothing too big and we did originally plan for a pretty early night. Like all good plans they tend to fall apart though, as with the missus driving us to Marylebone Station to drop Murts off for his train home, a classic tune came on the radio! That was all it took for us to very quickly decide to do a lap of Marylebone, turn round, head back to Lord’s, park the car, then get out and celebrate properly. It’s not often that we have ten days off after winning a match so it seemed the right time to make the most of the opportunity.

We were all a bit dusty the next day, so really made the most of having a day off! Sleep, sleep and more sleep!

It was then off to Sunbury for a friendly T20 game. Stirlo played for the oppo and smashed it to all parts, although not far enough, as we still won the game. It was great playing under Morgs as our new one day skipper. He’s got so much one-day experience, which is going to be a huge help in our white ball cricket this year. A nice bunch of lads at Sunbury, although some bloke called Adam London looked a little stressed when he got out LBW to Rayner.

Then it was Easter and chocolate coma time. Never seen Murts looking so happy!

The missus bought me a stylish and lovely Lindt chocolate Easter egg, whilst I bought her a Mr Potato Head Easter egg, which she didn’t seem too chuffed with in truth. After she put him together, she didn’t have the heart to eat him, so I did the honourable thing and helped her pile through it.

A bit of time off this week, with no game, so Murts, Simmo, one of Simmo’s mates and me, set off for a bit of golf action. Simmo and Murts are still moaning about me teeing off with an iron and not a driver! So I’m there, smashing it 250 yards, straight as an arrow, whilst Murts and Simmo are hitting it 300+ yards into lakes, trees and bushes! They’ll never learn. I paired up with Murts against Simmo and his pal, Blake. In truth, they were doing all right until Murtagh’s ‘hay fever’ kicked in, which meant that every time Simmo or Blake were in mid swing Murts would ‘involuntarily’ sneeze. Seemed to wreck their game for some reason! Needless to say the Rayner/Murtagh dream team won the match (thanks to Murts’ ‘hay fever’) and we enjoyed our victory beers!

I also picked up a bad bout of the dreaded man flu, which we all know can be fatal. Obviously got no sympathy at all from the boys as we went into some more T20 training at Merchant Taylors’. Morgs looked incredible, smashing it everywhere! He’s gonna be such an asset in this year’s NatWest T20 Blast campaign.

Then came the Yorkshire game! And wow, what a game!

Massive game. On paper two of the best sides in Division One going head to head.

After a really tough first two days I was wondering whether an office job would be a better idea and was questioning what I was doing out there playing cricket. After the next two days and having played a part in the most amazing game of cricket seen at Lord’s in decades, if not ever, I’ve got a bit of a sore head, having celebrated long and hard with the boys last night!

A huge amount of praise for this victory over Yorkshire goes to the little red rocket, Bucky Rogers. What a special knock from the little guy. Some have even said that as an individual performance it was comparable to my own efforts down at the Kia Oval last year! We all know that’s not true, but don’t tell Bucky. Oh, and I don’t like talking about the Oval game by the way.

By far the best game I’ve ever played in. Even the BFG was welling up in the dressing room, he was so proud. It was a real statement of intent sent out to the rest of the league. It’s given us a real sense of belief that we’re on the right track and are capable of beating anyone.

The batters did a great job and gave the bowlers a nice rest, which was exactly what old man Murtagh needed, as he isn’t getting any younger, and it also gave Finny a chance to chill out, which meant he didn’t go all Victor Meldrew on us.

Moments like this, sat in the home dressing room at Lord’s after an amazing victory, drinking a cold can of beer are special. It was that special that even MCC sent us down a couple of bottles of champagne. Everyone had a couple of drinks in the dressing room before heading down to the Tavern for a couple more. We then went out on the town. I offered Joe Denly my bed, whilst I took the sofa. Not sure the missus was too happy, given that she was in the bed! Most of the lads drifted off in the early hours, although some of them had a late night visit to china town for some much needed grub!

We’ve had three tough games this month, and even after Sussex, which we won’t talk about, we’re still sat second in the table. It’s early days, but with the fight, spirit and belief we’ve got after these last two games, we know that we’re capable on our day, so watch this space.

Hopefully May can continue in the same manner and we can keep our winning run going.

Cheers all, Ollie

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