After a pair of hard fought two-day pre-season matches over the last week against Kent and Surrey, when Middlesex's First Team Coach, Richard Johnson, gave opportunities to all of his squad to impress ahead of the start of the County Championship season next week, he has refined his squad for this week's visit of Essex to Old Merchant Taylors' School CC as the season nears.
Johnson stated that he and his coaching team would be looking at performances in these two recent matches on top of performances on the grass nets in the marquee at Merchant Taylors' School over the past month to help shape his squad going into the season, and he names a strong side for the Club's final pre-season clash of the year, a three day encounter, which will likely resemble something close to his line up for the start of the Championship campaign at Lord's on 7th April against Derbyshire.
Against Kent, on a bowler friendly wicket which proved tough going for the batters, it was the evergreen talisman Tim Murtagh who shone with the ball, picking up three cheap wickets in the 15 overs he bowled, and Tom Helm offered great support with some reward, finishing with one wicket from his 14 overs.
Against Surrey, on another testing wickets for the batters, Surrey were put under pressure on the opening day, and it was Ethan Bamber who came out of it with most reward for his efforts, picking up three wickets for 45 from his 17 overs. Again, like Murtagh in the previous match, it was a senior head who also shone, as Toby Roland-Jones looked in good rhythm through his eleven overs and saw off England opener Rory Burns early for a duck.
With the bat, Sam Robson and Mark Stoneman sent out a message to the rest of the game that they have the potential to be a truly formidable opening partnership, with both putting the Surrey bowlers to the sword. Both retired their innings, giving others a chance to spend time in the middle, with Robson making 44 and Stoneman a sublime 81. There were starts for Robbie White, Max Holden, Jack Davies and Joe Cracknell, and all mentioned above feature in Johnson's squad for the Essex clash, with the exception of Cracknell, who misses out this week.
Spectators are again most welcome to come and attend the fixture, played over Thursday, Friday and Saturday, however please be aware that as this game is a pre-season match, spectator facilities are limited. Seating will be provided, and toilet facilities are available, however there is no in-ground catering other than the mobile coffee van who will be in attendance. Due to the prospect of cold and inclement weather, we would urge all spectators to wrap up warm, as no covered spectator areas are available.
Please note - all three match days start at 10.30am!
The Club will NOT be producing an enhanced live stream of the match, however the game can be viewed on the analyst's static camera that will be in use over the three days, with these pictures available to watch live vie the Clubs website in the match centre.
Middlesex name the following twelve for the Essex three day encounter:
Tim Murtagh (captain)
John Simpson (wk)