After a break of almost a month from red ball cricket, where the focus has been on their NatWest T20 Blast and Royal London One-Day Cup white-ball campaigns, Middlesex return to four-day cricket on Sunday in the Specsavers County Championship against a Lancashire side who have set the early pace in this year’s competition and sit proudly at the top of the Division One table.
Defying many pundits’ predictions that a return to the top flight would see Lancashire struggle this term in Division One, they have done the complete opposite and are the only side in either division to have secured three Championship wins to this point of the season.
Their 99 points from seven games played puts them level with Yorkshire in top spot, although Middlesex, nicely poised in fourth place, sit just thirteen points behind them in what is beginning to look like one of the most closely fought County Championship Division One campaigns for some years.
With the competition nearing its halfway stage Middlesex were mightily relieved to have got their first win of the campaign under their belts in their last outing, in a dominant display at Merchant Taylors’ School, against a Hampshire side that now sit at the foot of the table.
The Seaxes can consider themselves to be extremely unfortunate however to have lost so much time this season to the rain - over eight days in total, which has seen advantageous or winning positions slip away from them in a number of games. How different things could look had the weather gods been kinder to Middlesex this year?
With Middlesex’s four-day captain, Adam Voges, now with Australia on international duty, James Franklin takes control of the side for this encounter at Lord’s and will head into the match with a strong seam attack named in the squad.
His bowling unit including the club’s leading wicket-taker this season Tim Murtagh, who has 24 Championship wickets to his name, Toby Roland-Jones, who has twenty, plus James Harris and James Fuller, who picked up five wickets in Middlesex’s win at Merchant Taylors’ on his first-class debut for the club. Spinner Ollie Rayner is also named in the squad, who with fifteen wickets, is Middlesex’s third highest wicket taker in the Championship this season.
Middlesex’s side looks nicely balanced for the visit of Lancashire with a strong and in-form batting line-up in place to complement their strong bowling unit. Leading run-scorer Sam Robson, in terrific form this season and averaging almost 80, is named, as is fellow opener Nick Gubbins, with the pair of them already having hit three century plus opening stands this season.
With Dawid Malan and John Simpson both averaging over fifty, big hitting Ulsterman Paul Stirling averaging almost 40, plus Steven Eskinazi, who has impressed with a heavy weight of runs in Middlesex’s Second Eleven also named in the squad, there are plenty of runs throughout the Middlesex side.
Lancashire’s hopes of success will hinge on the continued form of Alviro Petersen, who is their leading Championship run scorer, averaging just short of fifty this season, whilst 22-year old Liam Livingstone has grabbed his opportunity with both hands and leads Lancashire’s batting averages with 489 runs at 97.80, having only made his first-class debut earlier this year.
Both Kyle Jarvis and Neil Wagner will need to be on song with the ball, as they’ve been responsible for 59 of the wickets that Lancashire have taken to date, whilst the spin of Simon Kerrigan has accounted for 17.
Middlesex are pleased to announce the following 13-man squad to play against Lancashire in our Specsavers County Championship match starting tomorrow, Sunday 26 June, at Lord's:
James Franklin (c), Stephen Eskinazi, James Fuller, Nick Gubbins, James Harris, Ryan Higgins, Dawid Malan, Tim Murtagh, Ollie Rayner, Sam Robson, Toby Roland-Jones, John Simpson, Paul Stirling.
Gates open at 10am and the match is due to start at 11am. Tickets can be bought on the gate and cost £18 for adults, £9 for over 65s and £5 for under 16s.