After sitting out the last round of matches last week Middlesex return to Specsavers County Championship action on Wednesday at Edgbaston against a Warwickshire side who will be brimming with confidence, after they beat Somerset in the Royal London One Day Cup semi-final on Bank Holiday Monday, to see them through to the final at Lord’s next month.
As the only Division One side without a fixture last week Middlesex could only look on as Yorkshire secured a crucial victory over Nottinghamshire to close the gap at the top of the table to just five points with four games remaining, whilst Surrey eased any relegation concerns they may have had earlier in the campaign when securing a ten wicket win over Lancashire at the Oval to move into third place.
Warwickshire, Middlesex’s opponents this week, had the better of a rain affected clash with Durham last week and looked impressive with the ball as they dismissed their hosts for just 207 in their first innings at the Emirates ICG, only for rain on day three to scupper their chances of driving home the advantage they’d gained from building a large first innings lead.
The bears sit in fifth place in the table, with their hopes of launching a title challenge still in place, although they’d realistically need a victory over Middlesex to bring them right into contention in what is such a closely fought Division One campaign this season.
The main threat from Warwickshire comes from the hugely accomplished off-spin of Jeetan Patel, who with 54 Championship wickets at an average of just 24 is the leading wicket taker in Division One of the Championship this term, although Keith Barker’s left arm seam has also yielded him 48 Championship wickets at 25, which sees him lying in second place in the Division One wicket taking table. Unsurprisingly it’s the vastly experienced Jonathan Trott who leads the way with the bat for this week’s opponents, although he is the only Warwickshire batsman averaging above fifty this term, with 882 runs at 55.
Middlesex head into the clash without Irish duo Paul Stirling and Tim Murtagh, who are both in ICC Intercontinental Cup action with their country against Hong Kong in Stormont. The Seaxes will also be without paceman Steven Finn, who is sidelined through injury, and they will play for the remainder of the season without an overseas player, after Cricket Australia denied Adam Voges a return to the club to rest a minor hamstring injury.
On the plus side, after returning from injury to play in a Second Eleven clash against Glamorgan last week, Sam Robson is back in the squad to bolster the Middlesex batting ranks and is set to resume his opening partnership with the club’s leading run-scorer Nick Gubbins, and with the pair of them averaging 59 and 66 respectively, as well as five others named in the Middlesex squad averaging above 40, the batting looks plenty strong enough to cope with Warwickshire’s attack.
With the ball, the absence of the ever reliable Murtagh is a blow for Middlesex, although with the in-form pairing of Toby Roland-Jones and Ollie Rayner set to feature, both who have been heavily in the wickets of late, Middlesex have plenty of armory at their disposal. James Fuller & Ravi Patel also make welcome returns to the squad, following lengthy absences through injury and will add additional firepower and depth to the attack.
With four critical matches remaining in the campaign, Middlesex will be desperately hoping to maintain their status as the only unbeaten side in Division One and maintain momentum as the season reaches what promises to be an exciting climax.
Middlesex name a 14 man squad for this week’s encounter, as follows:
James Franklin (captain)