Middlesex are back in NatWest T20 Blast action on Thursday evening at Richmond Cricket Club's Old Deer Park ground in Richmond, where they'll take on Kent Spitfires in a game starting at 5.30pm.
With the eagerly awaited fixture looking likely to be a sold-out clash, any spectators who have yet to secure their tickets, but are planning on purchasing tickets at the gate, should be aware that the club have a limited stock of only 500 tickets available on the day, which will be available to purchase from 4pm when gates open. The advice is to therefore arrive early to avoid disappointment and lengthy delays entering the ground.
Having started the campaign brightly, with three points from their opening two contests, Middlesex find themselves entering Thursday evening's clash on the back of two disappointing losses, which came at the hands of Hampshire and Somerset, when they went down by 29 runs and 21 runs respectively. A win tomorrow evening against Kent will go a long way to getting their campaign right back on track.
With Brendon McCullum at the helm, Middlesex have lost four straight tosses on the bounce, and on every occasion, they have been put into field and asked to chase batting second. Whilst their thrilling opening encounter saw them chase down Gloucestershire's total of 182 to earn a tie after some late heroics from Ryan Higgins, their next chase, whilst ultimately successful, saw them clamber over the winning line against Surrey, with number eleven Steven Finn hitting the winning runs in the penultimate over, having lost the previous six wickets for just 28 runs. A win is a win though as they say - especially in this format of the game!
In the next two matches Middlesex have failed to chase down large targets, falling some way short of Hampshire's 189 total, where only a late 64 off 32 balls from Tim Southee earned some respectability to the chase, and then again against Somerset, who earned their first victory of the competition when defending their huge total of 207 at Uxbridge.
Middlesex need to bounce back at Richmond tomorrow evening, and whilst far from a must win game, given the fact that the competition has only just begun, a victory for the Seaxes will do a huge amount for their confidence going into another London derby encounter against Surrey at the Oval the following evening.
On paper, the T20 Blast eleven that Middlesex are fielding are as strong as anyone in the competition, although it's understandable that it will inevitably take time for new T20 Head Coach Daniel Vettori's plans to reach complete fruition. Any expectation of an immediate fix is perhaps somewhat unrealistic, although with the quality of players throughout the Middlesex side, when things click, Vettori's men will certainly be a side to be feared.
Middlesex name the same thirteen that went up against Somerset at Uxbridge last week, with McCullum, Dawid Malan, Paul Stirling and Eoin Morgan expected to reside in the top four of Middlesex's order. On a small Richmond ground, with a fast outfield, they'll be hopeful that runs can flow freely from the outset. All four are due runs, and if they come off tomorrow night, then a huge Middlesex total could be on the cards.
Nathan Sowter's spin has earned him six wickets to date in Middlesex's four opening clashes, and he has looked a real threat whenever he has ball in hand. Likewise, the pace of Toby Roland-Jones and Tim Southee has yielded six wickets apiece, with Tom Helm following up with four wickets.
With plenty of penetration and guile in the Middlesex attack, and with so much explosive power in the batting ranks, Middlesex supporters will be hoping that things come together at Richmond tomorrow night and the seaxes can get back to winning ways with a thumping victory over Kent.
The visitors come to Richmond having lost badly last night, when they were dismissed for just 130 by Gloucestershire - the lowest total yet in the 2017 competition. Whilst they clearly struggled for runs last night, previous scores of 207 against Surrey and 169 against Essex, earned them victories, and showed just what the likes of Joe Denly, Daniel Bell-Drummond and co can do on their day.
A win for Middlesex tomorrow evening will see them move ahead of Kent in the table, moving to five points from five games played, so it's all to play for as the competition hots up.
Middlesex name the following thirteen-man squad for Kent's visit to Richmond...
Brendon McCullum (captain)
John Simpson (wicket-keeper)