Seven games into their 2019 Specsavers County Championship campaign and Middlesex find themselves sat ninth in the Division Two table, urgently needing to find the spark that’s been missing from their four-day performances to date.
At the halfway stage of the competition Middlesex have just one win to their name, although encouragingly, other than Glamorgan and Lancashire, who sit more than twenty points clear of the pack at the top of the table, no other side has really stood up and made a firm claim on the third and final promotion spot up for grabs this term.
The gap from ninth to third is currently sat at just 33 points, so if Middlesex can find some form and some consistency in the latter half of the competition and string a couple of wins together, then climbing the table and mounting a promotion challenge is still very much a reality. This needs to happen soon however, and it’s finding those consistent performances that has been Middlesex’s biggest failing in a disappointing campaign.
Prior to Middlesex’s rain affected clash with Glamorgan, aside of Dawid Malan’s two hundreds earlier in the season, hit against Northamptonshire and Worcestershire, no other top order batsman had reached three figures, although Sam Robson’s and Paul Stirling’s hundreds at Radlett will have given Head Coach Stuart Law plenty of encouragement that his batters have turned a corner.
Law, interviewed by the ECB Reporters network this week, stated that he wanted his batters to find their inner “Aussie Mongrel”, to tough it out and show that they’re up for the fight. That battling mentality was certainly evident in Robson’s and Stirling’s knocks in tough conditions at Radlett, as his side hit 400 for the first time this season and looked set to secure their second win of the campaign had rain not intervened.
This week’s hosts Derbyshire sit just twelve points ahead of Middlesex in the table, in fifth place, and they, like Middlesex, have also struggled with consistency in the competition to date. They have been heavily reliant on runs from the evergreen Wayne Madsen, and from captain and former Middlesex man Billy Godleman, whilst their highest run scorer, Tom Lace, currently on loan from Middlesex, is unavailable for selection by Derbyshire against his home county. Luis Reece and Ravi Rampaul lead the way for the hosts with the ball, with sixty wickets between them in first-class matches this term, and they’ll pose by far the biggest threat for Middlesex this week.
Law has had to make some enforced changes for the trip to Derbyshire, with both Tim Murtagh and Paul Stirling away on International duty with Ireland. James Harris continues his recovery from a broken thumb and remains side-lined, as does Martin Andersson, who continues his rehabilitation after back surgery.
Middlesex name a thirteen-man squad for the crucial County Championship encounter, with Sam Robson and Stephen Eskinazi looking set once again to fill Middlesex’s opening partnership. The bowling attack features a characteristically strong pace line up, made up of Steven Finn, Toby Roland-Jones, Tom Helm, Ethan Bamber and George Scott, with Nathan Sowter named as the Seaxes’ spin option.
Taking the positives from a dominant display against Glamorgan at Radlett, Middlesex can head to Derbyshire in positive mood, optimistic that this can be the fixture that kickstarts their late push for promotion back into the top flight.
Middlesex’s thirteen-man squad is as follows…
Dawid Malan (Captain)
John Simpson (Wicket-keeper)