Middlesex fans have had a long, long wait to claim T20 bragging rights in the capital, as it was 2008 when they last secured the double over London rivals Surrey in this format.
Following their brilliant 37 run win at the KIA Oval a fortnight ago, Middlesex will however have the chance to do so again tomorrow evening, when they return to Lord’s for their seventh Vitality Blast group encounter of the season. Once again, they’ll be playing in front of a full-house at the Home of Cricket, as 28,000 will cram into Lord’s to watch the hottest show in town - The London Vitality Blast derby!
Middlesex had half-centuries from skipper Dawid Malan and AB de Villiers to thank for setting up another victory last Sunday against Somerset at Richmond, although tomorrow evening will be the last time the hugely talented big-hitting South African will play for Middlesex in the group stages of the Blast. His stint with the club comes to an end after Thursday, and Middlesex fans, who have taken him into their hearts, will have to hope that their side reaches the knockout stages come early September in order for them to once again see Mr 360 don the club’s pink jersey.
Middlesex’s win over Somerset took them to eight points from six games played and strengthened their position in the leading group in the South Group table, although it’s Kent and Sussex who lead the way, both sat out front on twelve points, each having played a game more than Middlesex.
Middlesex’s white-ball form has long been a cause for frustration, with the side simply not living up to its ‘on-paper’ potential. Under Head Coach Stuart Law however, who has targeted “Improvement” in the club’s white-ball performances this year as a key objective, the side are playing with a new-found verve and flair – and it’s paying dividends!
With the ball there are three Middlesex bowlers sat within the top ten wicket-takers in the competition as we approach the half-way stage - Toby Roland-Jones (12 wickets at 16.25), Nathan Sowter (11 wickets at 15.63) and Tom Helm (10 wickets at 19.20). With the bat skipper Dawid Malan is the competition’s leading run scorer, with 272 runs at an average of over 54, whilst AB de Villiers has the highest batting average of anyone in the competition -a cool 94.50 at a strike rate of over 205. If it’s improvement Law wanted, then he won’t be too disappointed with the progress thus far!
Middlesex need to convert this form into a successful campaign however, and six games in there’s every sign that they’re more than capable of doing so! In four of the last five seasons fifteen points would have been enough to ensure qualification to the Blast knockout stages from the South Group, and a win for Middlesex on Thursday would be a big step towards them hitting that target.
Law is keen to not look too far beyond the next game however and is keeping his players focussed on dealing with each game as it comes. If his side can maintain the current skill levels however, it’s hard to see any other outcome than a well-deserved place in the knockout stages for Middlesex!
Surrey are boosted by the welcome return of Sam Curran, who has been released from his England commitments. He’ll add some quality to a side which has really struggled to find form so far this term, having won only one T20 game and which sits second bottom of the South Group table. Curran’s return will give the visitors hope that they can turn their fortunes around at Lord’s and keep their campaign alive!
Middlesex head into Thursday’s clash with just one change to the squad that beat Somerset at the weekend, with left-arm paceman Tom Barber coming in to replace fellow seamer James Harris.
Middlesex’s fourteen-man squad is as follows:
Dawid Malan (Captain)
AB de Villiers
John Simpson (Wicket-keeper)
Mujeeb ur Rahman