After yesterday’s disappointing exit from the Vitality Blast at Hove, where Middlesex suffered a three-wicket defeat to Sussex Sharks, they must dust themselves off and head to the Ageas Bowl, where Head Coach Stuart Law will be looking for a strong finish to the season against Hampshire, in a dead-rubber against the bottom side in the South Group.
Law names an unchanged squad to travel to Southampton and he’ll be again looking for his young and inexperienced side to step up and finish the campaign with their heads held high.
It was a game of missed opportunities yesterday, as dropped chances came back to haunt Middlesex, as Sussex’s top scorer yesterday Phil Salt was put down early, as was the inimitable Luke Wright, who both went on to build what ultimately proved to be a match winning opening partnership for the hosts.
Despite the early setbacks, Law’s young charges showed great courage to fight back strongly to put themselves in a dominant position with just two overs of the Sussex chase remaining and the hosts needing 25 still to win. Then came the George Garton hammer blow, as the Sussex man cleared the ropes three times in the penultimate Finn over to leave his side requiring just three off the final over. Two balls later and Middlesex’s hopes of qualification for the quarter final stages were dashed, as the Sharks walked away with the points.
Disappointing for Middlesex yes, but positives galore to take to the Ageas Bowl, not least of all the maturity and fight shown by Law’s side. Once again young all-rounder Luke Hollman stood up, with both bat and ball, smashing 35 runs and taking 3 for 18 from his four overs of leg-spin, as did Joe Cracknell, who backed up his maiden fifty two days ago with another composed knock of 37. That blend of youth and experience again shone through, as John Simpson added another 46 runs to his season’s tally at a good rate, and Nathan Sowter showed his class, going for just 22 from his four overs of spin.
Whilst qualification for the knockouts is now gone, Law’s side will go the Ageas Bowl looking to pick up a win that will take them to ten points in the campaign, and they can then look back and reflect upon a season where in the vast majority of games they’ve competed well and competed hard, and can consider themselves unlucky to have not qualified.
Going into the final group game of the season, Stephen Eskinazi still remains the leading run-scorer in the competition, with 397 runs at an average of 44.11, whilst Middlesex skipper Finn remains the joint leading wicket-taker, with 14 wickets at just 17.85.
As for Hampshire, who have been long-time white ball specialists, they’ll be looking back on a disappointing campaign that has seen them fall short with both bat and ball this term, with former Middlesex man James Fuller the only man to surpass 200 runs, with 204 at 40.80 for the all-rounder, and Mason Crane’s 8 wickets sees him leading the way on the wicket-taking front.
Middlesex will be favourites to take the points tomorrow against a Hampshire side who have won just once in the Blast all season and have lost their last five outings in the competition, and Law will be looking for his side to repeat the result between the two sides at Lord’s, where Middlesex triumphed by 19 runs, although T20 is a funny old game, and Middlesex’s wily Head Coach will be making sure his side go into battle tomorrow with no hint of complacency on show as they look to get the job done and finish the season on a high.
The game gets underway at 2pm, behind closed doors at the Ageas Bowl, and fans can tune in to Hampshire’s live stream of the game, which we’ll be showing on the Middlesex website.
Stuart Law has named the following unchanged fifteen-man squad to take on Hampshire tomorrow:
Steven Finn (c)
John Simpson (wk)