Toby Roland-Jones' remarkable four career-bests take Middlesex top

Northamptonshire 283 & 176 Middlesex 543-7 dec (Middlesex win by innings and 84 runs)
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The Independent Online

Middlesex deposed Yorkshire as the early-season leaders in the County Championship by completing a comfortable win over Northamptonshire at the County Ground, where Toby Roland-Jones, a seam bowler who could not get in the side at the start of the season, finished with the remarkable accomplishment of four career-bests in the same match.

Having taken 6 for 55 with the ball in Northamptonshire's first innings, improving on his 6 for 63 against Nottinghamshire last summer, he took 6 for 50 as the home side were dismissed for 176 in their second innings, giving him match figures of 12 for 105, which also put him in new territory, as had his 60 off 30 balls with the bat.

It means that Middlesex are now 19 points clear at the top, although all the other First Division teams have played a match fewer.

Chris Rogers, the Middlesex captain, gave Roland-Jones due credit, although within a context of bluntly Australian realism. "We know what Toby is capable of," Rogers said. "When he is at his best he is an exceptional bowler but he's probably gone missing a bit for a little while and he will admit that.

"But this was as well as I have seen him bowl for a couple of years," he added. "He was getting it in the right place and looked like taking a wicket every ball, and not many bowlers can say they could do that on a flat wicket like the one we have had here."

From their overnight 88 for 4, Northamptonshire lost three more wickets in the first half-hour, including two more scalps for Roland-Jones. Middlesex were held up for a while as Ben Duckett, the 19-year-old batsman, made a career-best 56 alongside Ian Butler, the New Zealand all-rounder, who preserved his wicket for almost two hours, facing 119 balls for his 14 runs. But once they were parted the end came swiftly – Roland-Jones dismissed both, getting Duckett out on the hook for the second time in the match.

Rogers played down Middlesex's claim to be title contenders, even after four wins in six matches. "We are going to come up against teams stronger on paper than Northants and we have not played great cricket consistently," he said. "Tests will be coming thick and fast – we have Sussex in the next game and they have turned us over already this season. We will have a bit more of an idea after that one."

By contrast, it was a fourth defeat in five for promoted Northamptonshire, three of them by an innings.