Middlesex play the first of two consecutive home Specsavers County Championship encounters at Lord’s this week when Kent come to the Home of Cricket for what is now a crucial must win game for Dawid Malan’s Middlesex side.
Whilst Middlesex lost pace on the leaders in the promotion race last week, toiling for a draw against Gloucestershire on a slow and docile deck at the Brightside Ground in Bristol, Kent marched on, securing another important win against Northants in Canterbury - doing their promotion hopes no harm at all.
Having won three consecutive four-day matches, last week’s draw for Middlesex saw the side maintain their unbeaten record under interim Head Coach Richard Johnson, although with just three games remaining Middlesex are running out of time and must secure close to maximum points from here on in, then hope that both Kent and Sussex slip up elsewhere to give them a chance of promotion.
Middlesex currently hold fourth spot in the Division Two table, on 133 points from eleven games played, sitting 38 points adrift of Sussex in third (171 points) and 43 points off Kent in second (176 points). With league leaders Warwickshire still to play both Kent and Sussex, there’s every chance that should Middlesex win their three remaining matches, that they could be well in the mix-up come the final day of the season.
In form Kent arrive at Lord’s having won their previous three encounters, beating Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Northants in the last three weeks. They owe a lot of that good form to overseas Kiwi paceman Matt Henry, who is now the leading wicket-taker in the country, with a hugely impressive 61 wickets to his name at an average of under fifteen. Support for Henry in the pace attack is coming predominantly from former Middlesex paceman Harry Podmore, who has picked up 34 wickets at under 24 in his debut season with the Spitfires.
Like Middlesex, Kent too have struggled to secure batting points this term, with just eleven on the board coming into this game. The evergreen Joe Denly, another former Middlesex man, leads their run-scoring with 749 runs at just under 40, whilst Heino Kuhn (690 runs at 38) and Sean Dickson (646 runs at 32) offering support in the run-scoring department.
Dawid Malan’s men will be looking to gain revenge for the drubbing they received at Canterbury earlier this season, when Kent were the beneficiaries of the pink ball and very favourable playing conditions, as they ran out comprehensive winners under the floodlights at the St Lawrence Ground. Middlesex will undoubtedly have to be at their best this week, taking on one of Division Two’s form sides, although playing with the red ball, in more balanced conditions at Lord’s, Malan’s side will be confident that they can enact revenge on Kent and keep their outside hopes of promotion alive.
Anything but victory for Middlesex would all but seal their fate and condemn them to another season in Division Two, whilst victory for Kent would dramatically increase their own hopes of promotion to the top-flight with just two games remaining. All this weighed-up, we look set for an exciting and thrilling encounter at Lord’s this week between two closely matched sides intent on coming away from Lord’s with a victory.
Kent have named an unchanged thirteen-man squad for this week’s clash, as follows: Sam Billings (captain & wicket-keeper), Daniel Bell-Drummond, Zak Crawley, Joe Denly, Sean Dickson, Heino Kuhn, Harry Podmore, Darren Stevens, Grant Stewart, Ivan Thomas, Adam Riley, Matt Henry and Oliver Robinson.
Middlesex however are forced to make one change and will head into the Kent clash without their leading wicket-taker James Harris, who has been inspirational for the Seaxes this season, picking up 54 wickets at under twenty. He misses out on this week’s clash, and is rested, having suffered from fatigue and soreness during the clash with Gloucestershire last week.
Aside of the absence of Harris, Head Coach Richard Johnson names the same thirteen who travelled to Bristol, as follows:
Dawid Malan (captain)