The last time Middlesex were in action at Merchant Taylors’ School they secured an important innings victory against Hampshire that acted as the springboard to them going on to lift the Championship trophy at Lord’s late in 2016.
A victory in Northwood this week would be equally as important for Middlesex, albeit for very different reasons, as a little over three years on and Middlesex return to Merchant Taylor’s School sat at the foot of the Division Two table, desperate for a win to spark a turnaround in what’s been a disappointing four-day campaign to date.
With Middlesex needing to find that winning formula, and needing to find it quickly, four days on a featherbed of a wicket in their last encounter at Derby were anything but what the doctor ordered, although another two batsmen hitting hundreds, to add to the two centuries hit against Glamorgan the week before will give Head Coach Stuart Law some signs of encouragement that the club’s shortage of runs in the top-order could be behind them.
Sussex’s heavy loss to Northamptonshire last week closed the Division Two table up even more, and despite winning just one game all campaign Middlesex find themselves just 27 points adrift of third place – and with a game in hand. A win here in Northwood for Middlesex would put them right back in the hunt, although Law, in his pre-match interview on the club’s website, was keen to stress that he wants his players focussed on the here and now, doing the basics well and performimg to our best! Do that and rest will take care of itself.
This week’s opponents Gloucestershire feature two Middlesex old-boys in their ranks, Tom Smith and Ryan Higgins, and they come to Northwood sat in fifth place in the table, also having won just one Championship clash all year. Higgins is the West-Country side’s leading run-scorer, with 544 runs at an average of 77, whilst their main threat with the ball comes from the left-arm pairing of David Payne and Matt Taylor, who have 45 wickets between them.
A win at Merchant Taylors’ this week would instil a huge amount of confidence in Law’s side and give them the belief that the season is still alive and kicking, whilst defeat would surely as good as close the door on any hopes of returning to the top-flight of the Championship next season.
Stuart Law has named the following thirteen-man squad for the Gloucestershire clash, with Steven Finn dropping out with a niggle, replaced by Tom Barber, and Jack Davies making way for the returning Robbie White, who has returned from a loan spell with Essex.
Dawid Malan (Captain)
John Simpson (Wicket-keeper)