James Fuller’s promotion up Middlesex’s T20 batting order may be overdue according to coach Daniel Vettori.
Fuller currently tops both the averages (52) and the strike-rate charts (168) for the Seaxes, yet has only batted higher than No.8 once during a campaign in which they have lost eight of 10 games so far – too often being left too little time to make a telling impact.
Vettori revealed strong consideration had been given to using Fuller as a pinch-hitter in a bid to up the scoring rate.
However, with the likes of overseas stars Dwayne Bravo and Ashton Agar originally in the mix, that option remains yet to be explored.
On reflection, the former New Zealand spinner concedes he may have missed a trick with Fuller, who appears set to bat higher up going forward, both for the rest of this season and next.
“We probably haven’t got the combination right of when he goes in and when he doesn’t,” Vettori admitted.
“He came in at five against Surrey and we’ve actually prepped him the whole season to be a pinch-hitter but sometimes with Bravo and Agar in the side it has been a case of should he go in ahead of them?
“It’s definitely something to look at more regularly. As we’ve said we’ve had him ready to go every game but because of circumstances it didn’t quite work, but the one game he batted higher he was exceptional.
“I actually think he is more than a pinch-hitter. He is a genuine top-six batsman who can play in that aggressive way to give the team some real impetus through those middle stages.
“There is enough there to suggest he is a good option.”
Vettori accepts his side have been outgunned by opposition batsmen in the crucial phase of the powerplay, in part at least because his bowling unit have lacked the consistency of guile to curb the aggression directed against them – even when taking wickets.
“We have had trouble in the powerplay both ways,” he said candidly.
“Our best bowling powerplay was 49-3 against Somerset and they went on to get 229. So, it has been the case of other teams possessing the ability to be so aggressive against us and us not being able to counter that as a bowling unit.
“There are always two aspects to this. We can sit here and say the opposition has been reckless and gone hard, but we have bowled balls which have allowed them to continue that.
“So, our powerplay run-scoring has been down compared to other teams and also our ability to stem the flow with good bowling has been limited in this format.”
Another area under review, according to Vettori, is the question of overseas players.
Agar, originally signed for the whole campaign, was restricted to half a dozen appearances because of international commitments with Australia, while Bravo also played just six games before jetting back off to more white-ball action elsewhere.
While acknowledging both men made contributions, Vettori believes the recruiting of overseas stars is an increasingly complex one, even going as far as to suggest it may not be worth the investment of time, money and energy.
“We had two quality players this year and at times they really performed for us,” he added. “Agar took 3-17 against Hampshire and Bravo had a couple of all-round games, so it’s tricky.
“I think there are a few layers to the overseas player issue. We had plans in place during the year which would have led to players being available the whole time, but unfortunately that didn’t happen.
“The second part is it is actually incredibly difficult to get overseas players now, with first of all multiple competitions around the world and also visa requirements meaning some are not able to come and play.
“So, to get a guy for six games – is it worthwhile? That’s a question we are debating.”
Middlesex are next in T20 action on Thursday when they face Gloucestershire at Bristol.