Naomi Dattani and Natasha Miles will captain Middlesex this year in the County Championship and T20 respectively. With Middlesex Women's season kicking off on Sunday 30th April with a Championship clash against Lancashire at St Annes Cricket Club, and with the side in pre-season warm-up action tomorrow at Hartley Wintney Cricket Club against Hampshire, we preview their season ahead.
Middlesex has been pre-season training since October but with many players at university or overseas the Press Day was one of the first times most of the squad could come together.
India Whitty, Middlesex’s wicketkeeper, explained her winter training programme, "I’ve been doing a lot of fitness, working on my strength. Also working out my injuries and making sure I’m in top physical condition. Then a lot of work on my wicket-keeping, speed behind the stumps, but also power-hitting with my batting."
Looking ahead, Whitty is very upbeat, "I think to play as a team again. We ended on some really high notes last season. We’ve got new kit and new captains, and that’s going to be a new fresh start. We have the ability to go into it with a really positive attitude; we’ve had a really good winter and made lots of improvements. We’ve got additions to the squad, and it’s just going to be a really good, positive season. That’s what I’m looking forward to most, getting on the pitch for the first time with my friends."
Fresh from a second season at Melbourne club Prahran, new skipper and all-rounder Dattani will be looking to start her county summer in the same manner as last year. In the first four matches of 2016, Dattani scored 135 runs, accrued as she played to fit the situation; the anchor role or the attacker. This tally included her season’s best of 71 against a strong Sussex outfit.
T20 skipper and opening batsman Miles will seek to make her mark by leading from the front. With a strong batting line-up Middlesex will certainly not be reliant on their captains.
The experienced Beth Morgan will likely play a key role in the middle-order, hoping to continue her form from last summer where she scored 232 runs, often ticking the score over in tough situations.
England batsman Fran Wilson will also be hoping to contribute when international commitments allow; she had a good 2016 season for Middlesex, scoring 248 runs with a high score of 79*.
Maia Bouchier, is one of the younger members of the squad, showcased her talent in the First XI on a number of occasions last season. Bouchier hit 130 runs for the senior side and had a fantastic summer in age-group cricket, scoring 298 runs at 33.11 which saw her win the Middlesex CCC 2016 Youth Player of the Year Award.
Middlesex also have Catherine Dalton available for the whole season. Dalton will bolster their batting line-up and if called upon to bowl will certainly deliver an over of real pace.
Middlesex has a strong line-up of all-rounders as well as Dattani in spinners Sophia Dunkley and Izzy Westbury, plus seamer Milly Pope. Dunkley has been on several tours over the winter as a member of the England Women’s Senior Academy and with Loughborough University, and has shown she is in form with both bat and ball, notably in scoring 89 in Barbados. Westbury has stepped down as skipper which will allow her to spend more time enhancing each facet of her game as she looks to build on her 11 wickets and 118 runs from last season. Pope had a good 2016 season, contributing with both bat (280 runs) and ball (22 wickets) in the First XI and U19s as well as captaining the U19s to victory at the Radley festival.
Middlesex also has specialist seamers in Ria Raval, Hannah Wakeman and squad newcomers in Gayatri Gole and Katie Wolfe. Opener Raval will look to pick up where she ended 2016, claiming a season’s best of 3-36. Wakeman, Gole and Wolfe will all be vying for First XI spots, with the new duo having impressed in U19s. Wolfe claimed 24 wickets in 2016 for Middlesex U15 and U19 squads and Gole took six wickets for the U19s.
Middlesex have a warm-up match away against Hampshire tomorrow at Hartley Wintney Cricket Club.