Back in mid-January at Lord’s, in his very first press conference as the club’s new Head Coach, Stuart Law spoke of his desire to see Middlesex playing more positively as a white-ball side. A little more than seven months on and you’d be hard pressed to say that the Queenslander hasn’t already more than delivered on that promise.
Qualification for the knockout stages of the Royal London One-Day Cup in May has since been followed up with an impressive Vitality Blast campaign that has seen Middlesex firmly camped in the top four places of the South Group table since the very first ball of the campaign was bowled!
A disappointing recent slump however has seen Middlesex lose consecutive Blast games for the first time this season, resulting in them dropping out of the top four at a crucial stage of the campaign, leaving Law’s side with plenty of work still to do heading into the final two matches of the group stage.
Defeat for Somerset last night at the Kia Oval saw Middlesex’s London rivals do them a huge favour, as Surrey’s six wicket victory and a slip-up for Somerset left qualification firmly in Middlesex’s own hands.
Middlesex will complete the group stages with back to back away games - at the Ageas Bowl tomorrow evening against Hampshire and then at Taunton against Somerset on Friday.
Law’s men will be boosted by the return of AB de Villiers for the final two group games and they’ll be hoping that this will give them the lift they need to return to winning ways and secure their passage into the knockout phase for the first time since 2016.
At the Ageas Bowl tomorrow Middlesex will be looking for revenge over Hampshire, who inflicted the first of those two recent defeats on them last Thursday at Lord’s. A win for Middlesex in Southampton would not guarantee them a knockout place but would see them leapfrog Somerset and regain their place inside the top four.
Defeat at Hampshire would not rule qualification out for Middlesex, as a victory over Somerset on Friday would see Middlesex finish the group stages on fifteen points, ahead of Somerset, but then potentially facing the lottery of a net run rate calculation to determine who qualifies for a quarter final berth. Both Essex and Hampshire could yet join Middlesex on fifteen points, should they both win their two remaining games, although both sides are currently sat on an inferior net run rate than Middlesex.
As it stands, Sussex stand alone as the only side to have secured their place in the knockouts, with three remaining quarter-final places still up for grabs – with seven other sides potentially still in contention!
Victory in both matches for Middlesex would guarantee them a quarter final clash and that will be the target that Stuart Law will set for his side over the coming two days!
Stuart Law has named the following squad for the trip to the South West to take on Hampshire and Somerset:
Dawid Malan (c)
AB de Villiers
John Simpson (wk)