Middlesex return to Specsavers County Championship action tomorrow when they take on London rivals Surrey at Lord’s, after almost a month’s break from red ball cricket, during which the club have completed their eight Royal London One-Day Cup group games.
Tomorrow’s visit of Surrey in the County Championship is much welcomed by Middlesex Captain James Franklin, who is eagerly looking forward to a run of six consecutive matches in this format of the game over the next seven weeks ahead...
“We’ve got an exciting game starting tomorrow against a strong Surrey side and after a week off in the schedule are then looking forward to a busy period of four-day cricket until early July.
“We had some hectic periods of Championship cricket last year and that’s when we were at our best, so we’re looking forward to getting stuck into it again. We played well in our last four-day game against Essex and finished the game strongly and we know that if we can do our processes well again and can get in the swing of things early we can build some real momentum throughout this period.
“We’re a game behind most other sides in the competition, having played only twice, compared to most sides who’ve played three. We’re well up for this game against Surrey and we know that we’ll have to perform well against what is a good Surrey side. We had two hard draws against them last year, but we know that if we play well we’re a match for any side, so we’re really looking forward to it.”
Middlesex’s opening two encounters in this year’s campaign both ended in draws against Hampshire away and against Essex at Lord’s, whereas Surrey won their opening encounter convincingly by an innings against Warwickshire at the Kia Oval, before drawing with both Lancashire and against Warwickshire in the return fixture. Surrey’s tally of 45 points from the three games played sees them sitting in pole position in the Division One table. Middlesex lie in 6th position on 22 points, although having played one game less than most sides in the division.
The addition of Mark Stoneman and Scott Borthwick, both joining from Durham, has had a huge influence on Surrey’s push this term, who, along with Sri Lankan Kumar Sangakkara, have added an impressive weight of runs and solidity at the top of the batting order.
Both Curran brothers continue to develop and look stronger for another year in the side, who, and along with Mark Footitt, a resurgent Stuart Meaker and Ravi Rampaul pose a real threat as an aggressive seam bowling attack, whilst the seasoned off-spin of Captain Gareth Batty offers plenty of variety.
Middlesex’s leading run-scorer Sam Robson continues to be sidelined with the hamstring injury he picked up against Hampshire in the Royal London One-Day Cup, although his opening partner in Middlesex’s two opening Championship clashes, Nick Gubbins, who in terrific form, is included, as is the club’s second leading run-scorer, Stephen Eskinazi, who with 289 runs to his name already this term at 72.25 is in exceptional early season form with the bat.
The Middlesex attack is likely to spearheaded by Steven Finn and Toby Roland-Jones, who continue to impress with the ball this year, picking up where they left off last September, whilst Tom Helm could well be in line for his first Championship appearance of the year, given the absence of Tim Murtagh, who is still away on international duty with Ireland.
Ollie Rayner retains his place in the squad as Middlesex’s spin threat, with Ravi Patel also named as a further spin option.
Surrey staggeringly haven’t managed a Championship win at Lord’s against Middlesex since way back in 1997, when they won by an innings and 125 runs, thanks largely to a ten-wicket haul in the match from Saqlain Mushtaq and 182 from Adam Hollioake in the visitors’ first innings. James Franklin and his Middlesex side will be keen to maintain that proud record at the Home of Cricket over the next four days.
Middlesex have named a fourteen-man squad for the London derby clash:
James Franklin (capt)
John Simpson (wicket keeper)