Specsavers County Championship Division One leaders Middlesex head to Old Trafford tomorrow to take on a Lancashire side who have slipped perilously close to the drop zone after going nine matches without a win.
In stark contrast Middlesex this week showed just why they've been the side to catch this year, by twice fighting back from desperate positions against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge to secure a vitally important five wicket win to remain in pole position in the top flight and maintain their status as the only unbeaten side in both divisions of the County Championship this year.
With just two matches remaining in the 2016 season both sides will be looking to secure a substantial points haul from this week's clash, with Lancashire in need of points to pull ahead of Hampshire, who sit just five points below them in the relegation zone and Middlesex desperate to widen the gap with Yorkshire, who now sit just one point behind them. With both Yorkshire and Somerset securing wins this week to keep mounting the pressure upon Middlesex in the title run-in, a win for the Seaxes was crucial in Nottingham, and the manner in which they achieved their win, under intense pressure, said a lot about the resilience, belief, determination, and will-to-win that is evident throughout the side now.
If Middlesex are to go on and secure their first Championship title since 1993, they'll have to call upon all these qualities and more in their remaining two matches, as the clash with Lancashire, who will be fighting hard to avoid relegation, is followed by another tough clash with Yorkshire, in what is fast looking like being a winner takes all encounter to bring the curtain down on the season. With Yorkshire taking on Somerset this week up at Headingley, the defending champions hopes of retaining their title could yet suffer a serious set-back, as under the captaincy of former Middlesex skipper Chris Rogers, Somerset's form of late has seen them force themselves right into the title reckoning, and they'll be in no mood to give up those aspirations this week.
Whilst Middlesex will be focussed on doing their own job well at Old Trafford, they'll be keeping a close eye on proceedings up in Leeds, hoping that their old skipper can do them a favour. Middlesex have named a fourteen man squad for the trip to Manchester, as follows:
James Franklin (capt), Nick Compton, Stephen Eskinazi, Steven Finn, Nick Gubbins, Ryan Higgins, Dawid Malan, Tim Murtagh, Ravi Patel, Harry Podmore, Ollie Rayner, Sam Robson, Toby Roland-Jones, John Simpson (wk).