After an absence of eight years, the Middlesex faithful will once again get to witness their side in a limited overs knockout clash on Tuesday evening, when they head up to the County Ground in Northampton to take on the Northants Steelbacks in the Quarter Final of the NatWest T20 Blast.
Both Middlesex and Northants reached the Quarter Finals by virtue of winning seven of their fourteen group clashes, which saw Middlesex finish their group in third place, and Northants in second. Whilst the Steelbacks finished their group campaign one point better off than Middlesex, by virtue of a point gained from one more rained off fixture, the Seaxes finished with a higher net run rate, so heading in to the Quarter Final there’s little to separate the two sides in this winner takes all clash.
The prize up for grabs for Middlesex, should they manage to get past a strong Steelbacks outfit, is an appearance at T20 Finals Day at Edgbaston on the 20th August and the opportunity to repeat the heroics of Henderson, Nannes, Shah, Joyce, Kartik, Udal et al, who successfully lifted the trophy for Middlesex back in 2008 at the Rose Bowl in the club’s only appearance at T20 Finals Day to date. Standing in Middlesex’s way of progressing to Edgbaston are a Steelbacks side who have enjoyed plenty of success in the shortest format of the game in recent times, winning the competition back in 2013 and narrowly losing out in the final to Lancashire last year.
There are familiar faces within the Northants ranks, in former Middlesex men Adam Rossington and Steven Crook. On their day, both destructive players in the short format, and who will no doubt be intent on putting on a show against their former employers. Danger man Ben Duckett is the stand out performer for the Steelbacks however, having blitzed his way to 360 runs in the competition to date at an average of 45 and having broken all sorts of records for the England Lions recently whilst playing underneath Dawid Malan.
Middlesex head into the clash without New Zealand talisman Brendon McCullum, who misses out on a return to the Seaxes for the Quarter Final due to ongoing problems and a worsening of the back injury he has suffered from for the majority of the summer. If McCullum’s injury is a blow to Middlesex, so is the absence of England One-Day and T20 Captain, Eoin Morgan, who again misses out, as he continues to recover from the chipped bone he suffered in his finger whilst playing for Middlesex in an earlier contest.
Middlesex name a fourteen-man squad for the trip to Northampton and Captain Malan leads a side which includes Australian George Bailey, making his final appearance for the club before he departs on international duty, and fresh from having just hit an unbeaten match-saving century against Surrey at Lord’s on Sunday. Malan himself, Paul Stirling and James Franklin are now all fully recovered from recent injury concerns, although James Fuller is regrettably still sidelined with a side strain. Middlesex’s pace attack will be spearheaded by leading wicket-taker Toby Roland-Jones, who will be looking to continue the impressive form he’s been in of late in all forms of the game, and in Nathan Sowter and Ollie Rayner, Middlesex have plenty of spin options available to them, which have turned matches in their favour in their campaign to date.
Dawid Malan (captain), George Bailey, Stephen Eskinazi, James Franklin, Nick Gubbins, Ryan Higgins, James Harris, Harry Podmore, Tim Murtagh, Toby Roland-Jones, Ollie Rayner, Nathan Sowter, John Simpson, Paul Stirling.
Play is due to get underway at 18:30 and is being shown live on Sky Sports.