Middlesex return to Lord’s tomorrow evening for the first of three Vitality Blast matches in what will, one way or the other, prove to be a campaign defining four-day period.
Tomorrow they’ll take on a Sussex side who have had their last two matches abandoned due to rain, although prior to that had won three of their four group encounters, to currently sit in joint third place with on eight points from six games played.
Middlesex’s last outing, an away trip to Taunton on Sunday, saw them leave the West Country pointless, having been well-beaten by a strong Somerset outfit, who secured the double over Middlesex and looked every bit as good on Sunday as they had a fortnight or so ago at Lord’s.
Batting first Somerset started shakily, as a ferocious three wicket over from Tom Barber rocked the hosts’ top order. From 29 for 3 a recovery was needed, and the experienced Peter Trego was just the man to lead it. Batting aggressively and taking the attack to the Middlesex bowlers, firstly Trego, with 60 from 31 balls, then Corey Anderson, with 41 from 24, and finally Lewis Gregory, with 62 off 26, smashed a total of 229 for the home side.
Needing eleven and a half runs an over from ball one of the reply was never going to be an easy task for Middlesex, which became all the more unlikely when Max Holden fell in the first over – a wicket-maiden from Max Waller.
In a rain shortened run-chase Middlesex went along at almost ten an over, although ultimately fell short of their DLS revised 213 target, managing just 174 in reply to go down heavily by 38 runs. Stephen Eskinazi’s 55 off 32 balls was the only real positive to take from a tough run-chase for the visitors.
There were certainly extenuating factors down in Taunton with both Steven Finn and Tom Helm both pulling out of the match after breaking down in warm-ups and joining Nathan Sowter on the side-lines. Three first choice bowlers out of action ultimately played its part in Middlesex’s defeat and leaves Middlesex with little room for error in the second half of the group stage.
With a record of two wins from seven games, and a total of four points on the board, Middlesex head into their final seven matches needing at least six wins to give themselves a sporting chance of qualifying for the Quarter Finals. This would take their tally to sixteen points from the group phase, which should be enough to secure a knockout berth at the end of the month.
With time running out Middlesex will need their winning run to get underway tomorrow against Sussex, and Daniel Vettori has named a twelve-man squad for the outing at Lord’s.
Eoin Morgan will once again captain the side in the absence of Dawid Malan - on Test duty with England, whilst Sowter and Helm both miss out again – Sowter with a quad strain and Helm facing a medical assessment this week.
Steven Finn does return to the side however, recovered from a sore knee, and he joins the eleven players who played in Taunton to face Sussex tomorrow..
Eoin Morgan (captain)
John Simpson (wicket-keeper)