You couldn’t possibly imagine a more starkly contrasting start to the 2019 Vitality Blast campaigns of London rivals Middlesex and Surrey!
As whilst Middlesex romped to victory against Essex on Thursday night at Lord’s, with AB de Villiers smashing 88 off 43 balls on debut to steal the show, Surrey were demolished by Essex the following night in Chelmsford, with Cameron Delport launching an astonishing assault on the Surrey bowlers, hitting them for 129 off just 49 balls.
The two London rivals will go head to head tomorrow night at the Kia Oval in front of a sell-out Kennington crowd, where Middlesex will be looking to build on what was a really encouraging start to this year’s campaign, and Surrey looking to shake off the effects of that opening day defeat.
Anyone who witnessed last year’s astonishing London Blast match-up at the Oval will remember what an absolute thriller it was – with Middlesex posting a record T20 innings total of 221. A brilliant hundred from Paul Stirling helped Middlesex to their record, although it counted for nothing, as Surrey’s opening pair of Jason Roy and Aaron Finch then smashed 33 boundaries between them to make light of the chase, reaching their victory target for the loss of just one wicket with four overs to spare!
Middlesex must head to the Oval without their centurion from twelve months ago, with Stirling unavailable for selection as he’ll be representing his country against England in the Test match at Lord’s. Eoin Morgan also misses this one, still on an enforced R&R break after England’s World Cup final heroics - otherwise Head Coach Stuart Law has a full complement of players available to him for selection.
There were plenty of early signs of encouragement that Mujeeb ur Rahman could well be the answer to Middlesex’s historic shortcomings in the bowling powerplay. Against Essex Middlesex had control from the get-go as the Afghan spinner bowled with miserly guile from one end of the powerplay, with Tom Helm offering pace and penetration from the other. Using Mujeeb in this way could be of enormous benefit not only to Helm, who batsmen will try to score off with runs drying up at from Mujeeb’s end, but also to Mujeeb’s fellow spinner Nathan Sowter, who could well cash in, as he’s at his best when batsmen take the attack to him.
Stuart Law stated that he wanted to see improvement in Middlesex’s white-ball performances this year, and if Thursday’s opener is anything to go by he’ll be pretty pleased with the progress already made. There’s still plenty for Middlesex to work on, and Dawid Malan will be keen to ensure that his side take momentum from last week’s opener against Essex into tomorrow’s clash against Surrey and try to build on an excellent start. With three back to back away games for Middlesex up next, they’ll be hopeful of picking up wins in at least two of those games on the road, to ensure they return to Lord’s next week very much in contention in the South Group.
Stuart Law has named a squad of fourteen for the London derby clash, with Max Holden coming in as Paul Stirling’s replacement being the only change from the squad named against Essex. Surrey must also do without those on International duty, as inclusion in the England Test squad to face Ireland also takes Sam Curran, Jason Roy and Rory Burns out of contention for this one.
Middlesex have named the following 14-man-squad…
Dawid Malan (Captain)
AB de Villiers
John Simpson (Wicket-keeper)
Mujeeb ur Rahman