Cricket: Rayner hopes Kent switch will reap rewards
PUBLISHED: 15:35 13 June 2019 | UPDATED: 17:34 13 June 2019
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Ollie Rayner is hoping his decision to join Kent on long-term loan will spark the start to the latest chapter of a county career that already spans 14 seasons.
The 33-year-old off-spinner is in line to make his 144th first-class appearance and his first for Kent when the Hop County take on Nottinghamshire at The Nevill Ground in Tunbridge Wells from Monday - the very same venue as for Rayner's List A debut for Sussex against Kent in 2006.
Born and raised in Germany, Rayner spent the first six fledgling years of his career with Sussex, making a century on debut against the Sri Lankan tourists at Hove in 2006.
A gentle giant measuring 6ft 5ins, Rayner joined Middlesex in 2011 but now feels the time may be right to head in a new direction by joining his third county in the south east.
"It's all happened very quickly because it became clear that Middlesex want to go in a certain direction in the spin department by giving Nathan Sowter a run of games," said Rayner.
"That's not ideal for me as I'm in the last year of my contract so, with Middlesex's permission, I spoke with Matt Walker and I'm flattered that Kent have asked for my services. Hopefully, it'll work out best for everyone and I'm pleased and excited to be here.
"It's a new chapter and another experience in life and in a career that has taken lots of twists and turns already. My theory has always been, 'What doesn't kill you makes you stronger', so I'm more than happy to be giving it a go."
Already this season Kent have given opportunities to left-arm spinner Imran Qayyum and off-spinner Adam Riley, but neither player can match Rayner's experience at the top level.
"I'm over the kicking and screaming phase of my career and believe that when one door shuts, another opens and I'm delighted Kent have offered me this opportunity," added Rayner.
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"Initially, it's for the rest of this season but hopefully, if we've all got on well and I've performed in however many games I get to play in, then come the end of the season we can maybe sit down and chat about things.
"It's all about taking it one step at a time and not getting too ahead of myself but I'm certainly not over playing cricket yet.
"I've already said to 'Walks' I don't want to move to any club who'll have me, I want to work with good people and I see Kent as that place because my season has been a little distorted up until now. I want to crack on with my work now and feel I can get a boost here, start enjoying the game again.
"I've known 'Walks' for a long time and have a lot of respect for him. I've played with Joe Denly and Harry Podmore at Middlesex and know Mitch Claydon, Darren Stevens and Sam Billings, who I've got to know well around the traps. I'm confident my personality will fit and my performances will back me up."
Rayner admits the commute from his wife and young child in Shepherds Bush may become a little tedious, but is looking forward to staying in Kent's team hotel in the Royal Spa Town from Sunday.
He said: "I'm facing a few weeks living out of a suitcase, but needs must and my wife is really backing me in this. I'm just hoping this latest appearance at Tunbridge Wells goes a little better than my debut did.
"I remember that game well, it was a Cheltenham & Gloucester Trophy game and I was still a bit wet behind the ears. It seemed to be going well for me and Sussex, we'd posted 280-odd and I'd dismissed 'Stevo' and had one for 30 off eight. But then Justin Kemp came to the crease and started launching balls back over my head, through the trees and onto the railway line.
"To stop him hitting me into Sussex I took some pace off and he just rocked back and clipped me over the marquees instead. I ended up with one for 75, which these days wouldn't be regarded as catastrophic, but it did back then!"
Rayner will join a Kent squad which should also include overseas signing Wiaan Mulder, who missed this week's rain-affected clash with Somerset with a slight Achilles heel strain.
The county have this week confirmed their interest in signing Tom Westley, the Essex batsman and vice-captain, who will be out of contract at the end of the summer. The 30-year-old right-hander from Cambridge won five Test caps for England through to 2017 and averages almost 36 with the bat in over 170 first-class appearances.