The Specsavers County Championship reaches its conclusion this week with Middlesex once again heading into the final match of the domestic season with a huge amount riding on the outcome of another crucial encounter.
The Championship had waited patiently for many a decade to witness as thrilling a finish to a season as last year's finale, when that incredible hat-trick from Toby Roland-Jones sealed an historic victory for Middlesex in the final overs of a captivating game at Lord's. Whilst this year's climax would have to go some way to top it for pure drama, it may well match it in importance, especially for the sides fighting to avoid the drop to Division Two.
A trip to Taunton to take on Somerset is the challenge that faces Middlesex this week, where they'll no doubt encounter a lengthy trial by spin at the hands of both Jack Leach and Dom Bess, Somerset's spin twins, who to date in this campaign have picked up an impressive 76 Championship wickets between them.
There's little doubting what Middlesex are likely to expect from the Taunton pitch they'll be doing battle on, so it's no surprise that they head to the West Country with both Ravi Patel and Nathan Sowter recalled to their squad, by way of them mounting a counter attack to the spin threat of Bess and Leach.
The loss of regular first choice off-spinner Ollie Rayner, who misses out having pulled up in Middlesex's last encounter at Lord's with side pain, is a significant blow for the Londoners.
Middlesex gave themselves every chance of avoiding the drop with a crucial and thrilling win against Lancashire at Lord's this week, where a twenty point victory haul eased the pressure on them slightly, and ensured that they would head down to Taunton with a significant sixteen point gap between them and their hosts this week, who were beaten by Surrey in another tense encounter at the Oval.
The survival equation for Middlesex has become that much simpler as a result of that last win - a win or draw will see the Seaxes definitely stay up! A win for Somerset puts Middlesex back in trouble, although should Middlesex lose but gain a greater bonus points tally then Somerset, then the Seaxes will still escape the drop.
With everything to play for over the next few days, the Championship season will once again be in for a tense and nervous finish!
Like Middlesex, Yorkshire too secured a nail-biting win in the last round of Championship matches, against already relegated Warwickshire, and they too will definitely avoid the drop if they avoid defeat this week against Essex.
Hampshire threw away a golden opportunity to secure their own safety last week, and are now right back in the midst of the survival battle, after they lost to Essex from the improbable position of having enforced the follow on, before then being rolled themselves for just 76 in their second innings!
With just one game remaining, Yorkshire sit on 145 points, Middlesex 143, Hampshire 140 and Somerset 127! A nervous week ahead awaits for all involved.
Richard Scott names the following fifteen-man squad for the trip to Taunton, which as well as missing Ollie Rayner, also sees Toby Roland-Jones side-lined, having been diagnosed with a stress fracture of the lower back earlier this week...