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County Championship Match Preview: Somerset vs Middlesex

After a brilliant innings and four run victory secured at Scarborough earlier this week, where Middlesex turned in a performance to remember on the final day of the match to dismiss the champions for just 167, James Franklin’s men head to Taunton on Sunday in pole position in Division One of the Specsavers County Championship, on 118 points, just one point ahead of Lancashire and Warwickshire, tied in second place.
This was Yorkshire’s first defeat of what is again proving to be another resolute defense of the title they won at Lord’s last year, and whilst they could argue that they were playing in a somewhat depleted state, through injuries and international call-ups, what is absolutely irrefutable is that Middlesex were the better side in Scarborough and have been so in the majority of recent meetings, with Yorkshire only losing three first-class matches in three years – each time at the hands of Middlesex!
In what is looking like one of the most closely fought County Championships for many a year, where just one point separates the top three sides and only 25 points separates first from seventh, turning draws into wins in finely balanced matches could well prove the difference as the season progresses and we move towards resolving which county will lift the 2016 County Championship crown. Whilst Middlesex will be most satisfied at finding themselves sitting at the top of table as we move past the half way point in the season, one can only wonder what the league table would look like had this year’s incessant rain not resulted in the Seaxes having to settle for draws in matches when they’ve been in dominant or winning positions.   
In Somerset, Middlesex face one of only two other sides in the top flight to have yet to taste defeat this term, along with Durham, as Somerset have themselves gone on an eight game unbeaten run to move themselves into sixth position in the table on 93 points, under the all too well-known excellent leadership of Australian Chris Rogers.
Rogers, a man whose gritty determination and steely resolve to win, will be desperate to maintain Somerset’s unbeaten run against his old Middlesex teammates down in Taunton, although in James Franklin’s side, they’ll face an opponent who is high in confidence, with momentum on their side, and in terrific red-ball form, having won two of their last three four day encounters.
Middlesex name a thirteen-man squad for the trip to the West Country, and led by Franklin, the Seaxes will be keen to build on that excellent result up at North Marine Road on the Yorkshire coast, with another win at Taunton.
They will have to do so however without both Steven Finn and the in-form Toby Roland-Jones, who were this week named in the England Test squad to face Pakistan at Lord’s next week, and also absent are Irish duo Paul Stirling and Tim Murtagh, both on international duty with their country in ODI action against Afghanistan. 
The squad is however strengthened by the return of Dawid Malan, who missed out on the win at Scarborough whilst with England at the T20I against Sri Lanka, and is in excellent red-ball form, averaging 52 in this season’s campaign. Also in exceptional form with the bat is Stephen Eskinazi, who has proved his place in the side and has made the most of his step-up from the Middlesex second eleven, hitting centuries in both of Middlesex’s last two Championship matches.
With seven of Middlesex’s likely starting eleven averaging above 45 in the Championship this season, there’s certainly no shortage of runs throughout the side, so Middlesex will be confident that they’ve got enough quality to return from Taunton with another victory under their belts.
Middlesex thirteen-man squad

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