Middlesex head to the Kia Oval this evening knowing that anything but victory over their London rivals Surrey will likely see their Vitality Blast campaign come to a premature end.
Despite a magnificent 90 off 56 balls from captain Eoin Morgan last night, Middlesex went down by 12 runs against a strong Sussex side, who successfully defended their total of 168 at the Home of Cricket to move themselves to joint third place in the South Group, just one point off top spot.
In contrast, defeat for Middlesex saw them lose their sixth match in eight games, and leaves them most likely needing to win all six of their remaining South Group matches to stand a chance of qualifying for the quarter final stages.
In each of the last four seasons, since the competition has been structured into two groups of nine, sixteen points has been enough to qualify for the last eight of the tournament, so whilst it would take a monumental effort from Middlesex now to turn their form around and get on an unbeaten run until the end of the group stages, mathematically, for now at least, this does remain a possibility.
Defeat to Sussex last night saw three brilliant individual performances from Middlesex players pushed into the shadows, as with the ball, Tom Barber bowled brilliantly, with all the pace and aggression we’ve come to expect of him, to finish with career best figures of 4 for 28. Ashton Agar again proved what a useful overseas signing he has been this term, picking up another three-wicket haul, finishing with 3 for 41 and taking his tally for Middlesex to nine in five games. And then of course there was Morgan’s knock – looking back to his explosive and composed best - smashing four huge maximums and nine boundaries on his was to a T20 career best of 90 at a strike rate of 160.
Plenty of positives therefore to take to the Oval this evening, although as Morgan himself said in his post-match interview, changes need to be made if Middlesex are to turn their fortunes around, and if the Seaxes are to continue in the competition then this simply must come into play tonight against Surrey.
Middlesex’s opening night victory against Surrey at Lord’s at the start of July seems a long time ago now, although there would be no better tonic for Daniel Vettori’s men than to kick off a late charge in the competition than with a win at the Oval tonight to secure the double over their rivals. With London bragging rights up for grabs tonight, Middlesex will be fired up to get one over the old enemy.
In Surrey Middlesex will face a tough challenge at the Oval however! With a top order of Aaron Finch, Jason Roy and Nic Maddinson the Middlesex bowlers will face a stern test in the powerplay overs, and with the likes of Ben Foakes, Ollie Pope and Rikki Clarke following them in the Surrey line up looks full of runs. Middlesex will have to be at their best tonight to quell the Surrey charge and early breakthroughs will be key to Middlesex coming away from the Oval with the points.
Middlesex will head into tonight's clash without Steven Finn, who is rested, to allow his knee to settle after last night's game at Lord's.
Head Coach Vettori has named a squad of fourteen for tonight’s London derby at the Oval…
Eoin Morgan (captain)