Middlesex begin their NatWest T20 Blast campaign tomorrow afternoon, with a 2.30pm start at Cheltenham against Gloucestershire, under the stewardship of New Zealand legend Daniel Vettori who is now with the club as T20 Head Coach for the duration of the tournament.
Whilst passing the T20 Coaching reigns to Vettori, regular Head Coach Richard Scott will be working closely with Vettori over the coming weeks, as Middlesex look to bring a fresh approach to their cricket in the short format of the game. Scott steps aside in jubilant mood, having mentored Middlesex to a thrilling County Championship victory today against Warwickshire, as his side showed all the steel they showed last season and more, when chasing down a testing victory target of 234 on the final day, to secure a crucial one wicket win under huge pressure at Edgbaston.
Confidence in the camp will therefore be high as they switch formats and go into the NatWestT20 Blast, although the Middlesex side that takes to the field in Cheltenham could well differ considerably from the red ball side that were victorious today in Birmingham.
Another New Zealand legend, Brendon McCullum, takes on the captaincy role for Middlesex’s first nine T20 Blast matches, with the huge hitting Kiwi set to lead out the side tomorrow, against a team that has been the Seaxes bogey side ever since the competition began back in 2003.
In ten clashes to date, Middlesex have yet to beat Gloucestershire, although with the squad Middlesex have at their disposal this term, they will never have a better chance to do so!
Joining McCullum in the Middlesex ranks is fellow Black Cap Tim Southee, who has joined up with Middlesex as the club’s second overseas signing. The paceman brings experience and quality to the Middlesex side in abundance and will be a key figure in Middlesex’s attack throughout this campaign.
Southee joins a seam attack of Toby Roland-Jones, released from the England Test squad to play for Middlesex, Tom Helm, who picked up his maiden five wicket innings in the four-day win against Warwickshire, Tom Barber, who signed professional terms with the club only last month, and George Scott, who continues to impress at all levels with both bat and ball.
Since arriving with Middlesex Vettori has kept a watchful eye on Middlesex’s spinners, in four T20 Second Eleven encounters the club have played over the last few days, and he names both Ravi Patel and Nathan Sowter in his first squad as his frontline turners. With spin support also coming from Paul Stirling and Dawid Malan, there’s plenty of options to take pace off the ball for Middlesex.
The batting line up receives a huge boost, as England Captain Eoin Morgan returns to Middlesex duty, and is set to feature, as is Dawid Malan, who joined Morgan in the England T20 side in the recent series against South Africa, smashing an incredible 78 off 44 balls on debut. Big hitting Irishman Paul Stirling is in line to feature high in the Middlesex batting order, with the dangerous John Simpson adding strength and power to the batting line-up plus out and out quality behind the sticks. The squad is completed with batsman Stephen Eskinazi, who comes in fresh from hitting a career best first-class innings of 179 against Warwickshire, and all-rounder Ryan Higgins, who also achieved a first-class career high in Middlesex’s win today.
With Vettori at the helm of such a star studded and talented outfit, and with McCullum instilling his fearless, hungry will to win mentality into the Middlesex dressing room, the club's fans will have every reason to be optimistic that this could be the year when the Seaxes mount a serious challenge in this form of the game.
Gloucestershire will take on Middlesex without their own marquee overseas signing tomorrow, as Sri Lanka’s Thisara Perera isn’t scheduled to join up with the West Country side until next week.
On a ground with short boundaries and a lightning quick outfield, tomorrow’s encounter is set to be an exciting run-fest for anyone lucky enough to have got a ticket for this sold out T20 Blast opener.
Middlesex have named the following fourteen-man squad:
Brendon McCullum (captain)
John Simpson (wicket-keeper)