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over 5 years ago | Uncategorised

"To turn over Australia would be an unbelievable thing"...Stephen Eskinazi

As Middlesex gear up to take on Australia in a one-day fixture at Lord’s on Saturday June 9th, Western Australia-raised Stephen Eskinazi looks forward to facing old friends, impressing on the big stage and perhaps even upsetting one of the best sides in the world…

These days the county tour match is an oft-maligned part of the English cricket calendar, with teams criticised for fielding age-group and second XI players supposedly trundling through the motions against rotational national sides that bear little resemblance to those that take the field in the full internationals which follow.

But Australia’s fixture against Middlesex promises to be different, as a side playing their first one-day match since one of the biggest scandals in their history come up against a team scenting a scalp.

“They are going to be taking it incredibly seriously with it being under a new regime, and with a couple of guys out there are going to be young players looking to stake their claim,” says Middlesex batsman Stevie Eskinazi. “Not a lot of those guys will have played much in English conditions so I think we’ve got a couple of things in our favour but we’re still going to have to play unbelievably well to beat them. We know how strong they are; they’re playing for one of the strongest countries for a reason so we’re looking forward to getting out there and giving them a scare before the full ODI series.”

It’s not just an opportunity for Australia’s players to put their hands up; for many of Middlesex’s players with international ambitions, Eskinazi included, this will be the closest they have come to playing in an international match, providing an invaluable opportunity to prove they can compete with some of the best players in the world.

“I’ve never played a tour match before but I can imagine it would be pretty unbelievable to go out as a county and turn over a national side,” says Eskinazi. “I remember watching us play against India a couple of years ago, and to have 7,000 people on a sleepy Saturday in the middle of the summer watching a 50-over tour match is a pretty special feeling.

“It’s a great opportunity for a young player like me. In county cricket we are pretty lucky in that we get to play against great overseas players consistently, but playing an all-international side you have the opportunity to get what in your own mind is an international hundred or an international five-for that would push your cause a huge amount.”

For Eskinazi, this fixture has added significance. Though he’s Durban-born and six years into a seven-year residential qualification period to play for England, the right-hander spent his formative years in Australia, playing for Western Australia’s age-group teams.

“For myself and [Middlesex’s Australian overseas] Hilton Cartwright, who have a bit of a link with these guys, it will be a chance to prove our point. Growing up in Australia you do put these guys on a pedestal and you idolise them so the opportunity to play against them will be incredible. I’m sure there’ll be time for a bit of banter considering Hilton’s played for Australia with most of these guys. It’ll be good competition but I think it will be good natured as well.”

Someone likely to line up against Middlesex for Australia is Ashton Agar; he of the remarkable 2013 Test debut, when, as a 19-year-old, he scored 98 from No.11 in a thriller at Trent Bridge. A teammate and good friend of Eskinazi from his Western Australia days, Agar is once again in an Australia squad, and is coincidentally also set to play for Middlesex in this year’s T20 Blast.

“It was a bit surreal because we played together in January 2013, I signed for Middlesex about two months later and then he played against England about two months after that,” Eskinazi says. “We went in two different directions but he’s still one of my good mates. He still lives in Perth and I often see him when I go back to see friends and play cricket there.

“My parents have recently moved to Melbourne and live about two minutes from Ash’s parents and they’re best mates, so they are going to come over together. I bet if you’d said to them six years ago that we were both going to be playing cricket for Middlesex in 2018 they would have laughed at us. It’s an amazing coincidence and it sounds like good fun. It will be good to see him, but not so good to get out to him!”

You can see Middlesex take on the Australians at Lord's on Saturday 9th June. The game starts at 11am and Middlesex members will have free access to the ground within their membership, and be able to enjoy their full membership rights on the day of the game.

Our thanks go to Ben Gardner and the team at Wisden Cricket Monthly for providing us with this article.

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