Middlesex return to Vitality Blast action tomorrow against Hampshire at Lord’s after a mid-competition break for a one-off Specsavers County Championship encounter down at Hove this week. A disappointing outing on the south coast saw Middlesex go down by seven wickets to Sussex inside three days and they’ll be keen to put that performance behind them in front of a full house at the Home of Cricket tomorrow and focus on securing a place in the Vitality Blast knockout stages.
Stuart Law’s side will be looking to pick up where they left off a week and a half ago, when they secured their sixth win of what’s been an impressive Blast campaign to date, when beating Gloucestershire by 9 runs in a rain affected DLS affair at Radlett. Another outstanding knock from Dawid Malan, a sublime 91 from 59 deliveries, saw the skipper put Middlesex ahead of the DLS target when heavy rain brought the game to a premature conclusion.
The inclement seasonal weather saw heavy rain cause further havoc across the south group last week, as Middlesex’s clash against Essex was washed-out without a ball being bowled in Chelmsford on Wednesday, and all four scheduled matches on Friday fell victim to the weather.
The abandoned Essex clash earned Middlesex their thirteenth point of the campaign and saw them move into third place in the south group table with just four matches remaining, trailing leaders Sussex by just two points and Kent by a single point.
Tomorrow’s visitors Hampshire have struggled to hit consistent form this term and come to Lord’s in sixth place, having won only three of their ten Blast matches to date, although a strong finish could yet still put them in contention. Last year Hampshire were one of only two sides that Middlesex beat in a disappointing campaign and Law will be keen for a repeat performance tomorrow to secure another two points and get one foot into the knockouts.
With only Glamorgan mathematically out of competition and unable to qualify, the eight other sides are technically still in the race for qualification, although it’s looking far more likely to come down to a five horse race for the four available quarter-final places up for grabs, with Sussex, Kent, Middlesex, Gloucestershire and Somerset all in the frame.
One more win could well be enough to secure Middlesex a knockout berth and they’ll be keen to waste no time in making sure they secure it tomorrow, before going on to finish the campaign well in the hope of landing a home quarter-final tie.
Pakistan International Mohammad Hafeez is set to make his Middlesex debut tomorrow as the home side’s solitary overseas player, before then being joined by AB de Villiers, who returns for the final two group Blast games of the campaign and for the knockouts should Middlesex progress.
Middlesex Head Coach Stuart Law has named the following 15-man squad for tomorrow’s home clash against Hampshire.
Dawid Malan (captain)
John Simpson (wicket-keeper)