Middlesex head to the Cloud FM County Ground in Chelmsford on Monday for another crucial four days of Specsavers County Championship action in a contest that will have a big influence of the shape of the Division One table.

With in-form Essex sitting in pole position, on 110 points, having won three of their last four Championship matches, their lead over Lancashire in second place already stands at fourteen points, whilst they’re a healthy 25 points ahead of Yorkshire in third spot. A win for the home side this coming week would add a significant amount of support to Essex Captain Ryan ten Doeschate’s claims that they are serious contenders for the title.

Middlesex of course still have that game in hand on the sides above them, and even though their innings demolition of Yorkshire at Lord’s last week didn’t see them move out of sixth position in the table, it certainly closed the table up, and brought them right back into contention to launch a serious challenge. The game in hand they hold could still prove to be hugely important as the season evolves. 

The coming week’s day night encounter, played with a pink Dukes ball, is an historic event in the history of the County Championship, with this being the first time the Championship has had a full round of matches in day/night conditions in its 127-year history. Quite how the pink ball will behave in English summer conditions remains a point of much debate, as indeed does the question on whether the floodlights will have any significant impact on proceedings on a long summer’s day, although it certainly adds an additional layer of intrigue to what is already looking like a terrific contest between two sides who’ll be fighting hard for the win to build on recent results.

Middlesex will be feeling high in confidence going into the Essex clash, which comes off the back of a truly dominant three-day innings win against a Yorkshire side that must be tired of their visits to the Home of Cricket in recent times. Essex themselves demolished bottom side Warwickshire and they too will be looking forward to the challenge. A deciding factor could yet be the experience Middlesex gained with the pink Dukes ball over on Abu Dhabi earlier this year, when playing MCC in day/night conditions, with the pink Dukes ball in the Champion County match.

On playing with the pink ball, Middlesex Captain, James Franklin commented…

“The natural light should last up to the scheduled finish time of 9pm at this time of year, so the floodlights might not be too much of a factor.

“The pink ball, though, does tend to do a bit more than the red ball. In Abu Dhabi, I remember that our coaches flicked pink and red balls at us during batting practice and the pink ones did move around a bit differently. The seam on them is a little bit more pronounced.”

The Essex side of today looks a very different outfit from the side that turned up at Lord’s earlier in the season and allowed themselves to be completely dominated by Middlesex in every respect of the game, only to leave Lord’s grateful for the weather that saved them from a thumping defeat. Whatever captain Ryan ten Doeschate and Head Coach Chris Silverwood have done in the weeks prior to turn Essex’s fortunes around is a credit to them, and as the only Division One side who have won four Championship games this term, and as the only side who remain unbeaten in the division, they can rightly claim that they deserve their current place at the top of the Division One table.

Essex will be missing New Zealand paceman Neil Wagner from this point on in the season, although the addition of Pakistan’s Mohammad Amir is more than adequate by way of compensation, and he’s set to make his debut for Essex at Chelmsford against Middlesex. They will be boosted by the return of Jamie Porter and Dan Lawrence, both who return from England Lions duty, having competed in the recent four-day game against South Africa-A.

Returning for Middlesex will be batsmen Nick Gubbins and Dawid Malan, who add a welcome boost to the ranks, with both men available again after stints with the Lions and England T20 side respectively. Malan comes back in fresh from having made his England debut on Sunday against South Africa in the third and deciding IT20.

Middlesex are however affected by the forthcoming three-day England Lions clash versus South Africa, with Tom Helm and Sam Robson missing out, having been selected for the international clash starting on Thursday.

Middlesex name the following thirteen-man squad for the visit to Chelmsford...

James Franklin (captain)

Nick Compton

Stephen Eskinazi

Steven Finn

Nick Gubbins

James Harris

Ryan Higgins

Dawid Malan

Tim Murtagh

Ollie Rayner

Toby Roland-Jones

John Simpson (wk)

Paul Stirling