Middlesex have named a twelve-man squad for tomorrow's NatWest T20 Blast clash against Essex, which will be played out in front of another sold-out near 28,000 crowd under the lights at the Home of Cricket.
Middlesex head into the clash on the back of two disappointing away defeats at the hands of Surrey and Somerset, on Friday night and Sunday afternoon respectively. Whilst disappointing with the bat against their London rivals at the Kia Oval on Friday, when failing to chase down a Surrey total of 156 for 7, against Somerset the batting fired, with Middlesex posting an impressive 162 for 6 in a reduced 16 overs, although on this occasion they were unable to defend their total, as the hosts snuck home with just one ball to spare.
Against Somerset there were far more positives to take from the performance, with Eoin Morgan hitting form with a blistering knock of 59 from just 28 balls, with Nick Gubbins, John Simpson and Ryan Higgins also chipping in with quick-fire useful knocks. Tom Helm again looked accomplished with ball in hand, and each of Tim Southee, Nathan Sowter and Ryan Higgins could feel hard done by, deserving far more than the figures they returned.
England Test selections mean that Middlesex are unable to name both Dawid Malan and Toby Roland-Jones in their squad for tomorrow evening's clash at Lord's, although with the third Test being played just down the road at the Oval, should either or both of them not be selected to play, then their release by England could see them named as late additions to the squad.
Middlesex need to kick-start their T20 Blast campaign now, and as each game passes, each fixture begins to take on a must-win look about it. In 2016 the Seaxes reached the knockout stages of the competition with a tally of fifteen points from their fourteen completed South Group games. With five points on the board thus far this season, five wins from their remaining seven games will see Middlesex match last year's points tally, and will give them a sporting chance of reaching the quarter finals. A win tomorrow night against Essex will be the first stepping stone towards Middlesex reaching that goal. Any other result and the steep slope they already have to climb begins to look more like a very treacherous mountainous assent.
Tomorrow evening's opponents, Essex, are in the same position, also sat on five points from seven games played, so they too will be eager to secure the victory they need to start their own climb up the table. Essex's last encounter was a rained off affair against Glamorgan, although prior to that rained off clash they overcame Hampshire at Chelmsford, restricting the visitors to just 124 in their 20 overs and chasing them down in just 14 overs.
Looking at the two sides head to head, Eoin Morgan leads the run-scoring table for Middlesex so far, with 209 runs in the competition, whilst Ravi Bopara head the charts for Essex with 242. With the ball, Essex's Paul Walter tops their list of wicket takers, with ten to his name, whilst Tim Southee leads the way for Middlesex with nine.
With two sides equally matched, by their performances and their record in the competition to date, tomorrow night's encounter promises to be an absolute thriller for all who've been lucky enough to bag themselves a seat at Lord's.
Middlesex name the following twelve-man squad:
Brendon McCullum (capt)
John Simpson (wicket-keeper)