Some six weeks after our last LV= Insurance County Championship encounter at Edgbaston ended in an eight wicket victory for Middlesex, we return to four-day red-ball action at Chelmsford tomorrow, where we'll take on Essex.
We have named a squad of fourteen for the clash, which will be led by Captain Toby Roland-Jones, and includes Indian international off-spinner Jayant Yadav, who the Club announced on Friday had joined Middlesex for the final four matches of this season's run in.
Heading into the game off the back off a win in Birmingham last time out sees Middlesex currently sat in eighth place in the Division One table, with Kent and Northamptonshire below us, in ninth and tenth place respectively, and Lancashire and Nottinghamshire ahead of us in sixth and seventh places.
We still maintain a game in hand on Kent, who currently trail us by three points, and with the Canterbury based side not playing this week, we have an opportunity to extend our lead over them ahead of the final three games of the season.
The return fixture against Essex was the opening fixture of this season at Lord's, when despite bowling out the visitors for just 266 in their first innings and 211 in their second, Essex still ran out winners by 97 runs in a low scoring affair, which proved to be a chastening showcase of how tough life in Division One would prove to be. Since then Middlesex have adjusted, and their win at Edgbaston showed just how far they've come, which will give \the group plenty of confidence and belief for the run in..
The addition of Jayant Yadav to the spin bowling ranks brings some world-class quality and Test experience to the side, and Middlesex can head to Chelmsford knowing that if the home side prepare a turner, to suit the likes of Simon Harmer and Matt Critchley, then they have some real quality of their own to call upon, whilst Middlesex also have Luke Hollman and Josh De Caires to call upon, and all could play a crucial role in Chelmsford.
In the seam department Middlesex have a full complement to choose from, with Roland-Jones, Ethan Bamber and Tom Helm chosen to lead the pace attack in the fourteen man squad,
Essex have been heavily reliant on the wickets of Harmer again this season to put themselves in contention to challenge for the County Championship title, currently sat in second place 17 points behind Surrey, and Harmer's 45 wickets have only been bettered by the 47 taken by Jamie Porter at the miserly average of just 18.36.
It was Porter and his opening new-ball pace partner of Sam Cook who were the chief protagonists at Lord's earlier this year, with the pair picking up thirteen wickets in the match, and Cook's haul of 41 wickets this season sees him just trailing Porter and Harmer, at an equally lean average as Harmer, just 18.39.
With the bat, Tom Westley has led the way for Essex, amassing 919 runs at an average of 48.36, with only three other batters scoring more heavily this year in the country, whilst Matt Critchley's 769 runs, Sir Alistair Cook's 666, and the soon to depart Dan Lawrence's 657 are next in line.
The first of four crucial matches to complete the season will no doubt be a nerve-wracking affair, however if Middlesex can come out of the week ahead with a decent points haul, it'll put us in great shape ahead of the last three games.
Middlesex's fourteen man squad to face Essex is as follows: