After dominating for large parts of each of the first three days of their last County Championship encounter with Warwickshire last week, Middlesex had to spend the majority of the final day agonisingly watching on from the pavilion as heavy rain washed out both the morning and afternoon sessions at Edgbaston. In doing so they saw their chances of securing a vital victory slip away from them, as less than eighteen overs play were possible in the evening session before bad light forced an early halt to proceedings and the match was declared a draw.
Middlesex took nine points from the fixture to see their lead at the top of the table cut to four points as Yorkshire picked up a ten-point draw against Hampshire in Southampton. With both Middlesex and Yorkshire having three more games remaining in their County Championship campaigns, compared to five other counties who have just two, it’s realistically looking like becoming a two horse race for the title this year, although should Somerset be able to rally a late charge in their final three games they could yet have an outside chance of closing a twenty-one-point gap on Middlesex and force themselves into the title reckoning.
Middlesex head to Trent Bridge this week to take on a Nottinghamshire side who reside at the foot of the table and are dangerously close to the drop from the top flight. Defeat at the Division One leader’s hands this week would see the hosts relegated and playing in Division Two next season for the first time since 2007. Nottinghamshire will realistically need to secure wins in both of their remaining fixtures, plus hope that other results go their way, to give themselves any chance of avoiding the drop to the second tier. With the home side in desperate need of points to stave off the drop, and Middlesex fighting for points to secure their first Championship win since 1993, an exciting and intriguing game is on the cards.
Middlesex will head into the match full of confidence after an impressive performance at Edgbaston, which saw off-spinner Ollie Rayner continue his magnificent form with the ball, picking up another seven wickets in the match to take his 2016 Championship wicket tally to an impressive 42 this term. Sam Robson, back in the side continued the terrific form he was in prior to his side injury, when hitting a patient and well-built second innings half century, whilst Stephen Eskinazi continued his great start to his first eleven career, with two well-constructed innings of 49 and 53.
At Trent Bridge Middlesex’s fortunes receive a timely boost from the return of experienced seamer Tim Murtagh, who comes back into the squad, having missed out on the trip to Warwickshire as he was with Ireland taking on Hong Kong in the ICC Intercontinental Cup. Further good news comes with the return of paceman Steven Finn, who has recovered from a hamstring injury earlier than anticipated and comes back into the squad having spent the last three weeks on the sidelines. Paul Stirling, who like Murtagh returns from Ireland duty, and James Fuller, now fit after recovering from a lengthy absence with a side injury are both available, however the pair miss out on selection, and are included instead in the Middlesex Second Eleven squad to face Durham in the Second Eleven Championship final at the Emirates ICG.
Middlesex’s fourteen man for the trip to Trent Bridge is as follows:
James Franklin (capt)
John Simpson (wk)