Four and a half weeks since returning victorious from Cardiff with 23 points secured from an emphatic 256 run win against Glamorgan, Middlesex return to Specsavers County Championship action on Sunday, when they’ll take on Sussex down at the 1st Central County Ground in Hove.
Middlesex were in excellent form in the four-day format when the mid-season break arrived to make way for the start of the Vitality Blast, with Stuart Law’s men unbeaten in five red-ball encounters, drawing three games and then securing impressive back to back wins against Gloucestershire and Glamorgan.
That last victory, the third of their Championship campaign to date, pushed Middlesex up to sixth in the Division Two table, just fifteen points adrift of both Glamorgan and Gloucestershire, who lie joint second and third and hold the two remaining promotion places behind leaders Lancashire – who sit 28 points ahead of the chasing pack.
The switch in formats a little over a month ago, from red-ball to white, couldn’t have come at a worse time for Middlesex, given the form they were in, but Law’s men were able to take that winning spirit and momentum into the Blast - and they’ll be hopeful of doing the same again as they switch back to the longer format this coming weekend.
With just four Championship games remaining Middlesex have forced themselves right into the promotion reckoning, and with three sides going up to the top-flight this year they’ll be hoping that they can quickly find the pre-Blast form they were in to force a positive result down in Hove and keep applying pressure to those above them in the table.
Sussex currently lie in eighth place in the table, although remain in touch, just fourteen points adrift of Middlesex, and they too will be looking to get back to winning ways themselves as they look to mount a late promotion push.
Unlike Middlesex however, this week’s hosts would have been hugely grateful for the change in formats back in July, as prior to the Blast starting they had slipped alarmingly down the table - winless in five Championship games and hammered in each of their last three outings, by Durham by 196 runs, by Northamptonshire by 393 runs and by Lancashire by an innings and 51 runs.
The coming four days at Hove promise to be an enthralling and intriguing encounter, with both sides looking for a crucial victory, but equally as importantly, neither side looking to suffer the hammer-blow of defeat. It’s a battle of wits between two great Australian friends and former teammates – Middlesex’s Law and Sussex’s Jason Gillespie. Whichever one of the two Head Coaches comes out on top will see their side take a pretty big leap towards Division One.
Middlesex name a thirteen-man squad for the encounter with Sussex, as follows:
Dawid Malan (c)
John Simpson (wk)