County Championship 2021: Middlesex Preview
What happened last year?
Middlesex had a good red-ball season with a third-place finish in the Bob Willis Trophy south group. Two wins against Sussex and in the derby against Surrey. While they lost fairly convincingly to champions Essex and suffered a tight loss to Hampshire.
Nick Gubbins was the standout with the bat and seemed to be playing a lone hand at times. However, over half his runs did come in a single innings so will be looking to build on the success and score a bigger weight of runs this season. Their batting struggles are underlined by the fact that none of the side was able to pass 50 more than twice, in a five-match competition is fairly poor.
Tim Murtagh was brilliant once again, taking 25 wickets at less than 13 apiece. He is now preparing for his 15th county season with Middlesex and will be looking to do the same and more. Martin Andersson and Miguel Cummins were handy in support of Murtagh but with the batting struggles they were unlikely to be challenging for the title.
Key player for 2021
Peter Handscomb is a very good signing for Middlesex, who were able to secure his services on a two-year contract in 2020. He was unable to play last year due to the travel restrictions, but they will be delighted to have him on board for this season. He will definitely bolster the fairly inexperienced side they currently have. On a personal note, Handscomb will be keen to push his case for test selection and playing in England is a strong way to do that. Handscomb is also due to captain the Middlesex side in the championship.
The return of Toby Roland-Jones could also be a massive boost for Middlesex. Alongside Murtagh, he could be vital if he manages to stay fit. As has been said before, Middlesex’s batting has had the tendency to let them down in the past, so if this is the same again, they will require strong performances from their senior bowlers to prevent a disappointing season.
England hopeful/young gun
Nick Gubbins has been on England’s radar over the last few years but has never broken into a senior squad just yet. With a career average below 35 it may be tough to make a case for him just yet, but with a large volume of runs at the start of any season is normally enough to throw his name into the mix. With England’s top order looking fairly uncertain, Gubbins certainly has the opportunity to find his name in the selectors’ minds should he pile on the runs.
Should Toby Roland-Jones start off the season in the sort of form that earnt him his England call-up originally, he could also find himself in and around the squad. However, that path looks certainly narrower with a number of seamers including Sussex’s Ollie Robinson ahead of him in the queue.
The target for this year?
Middlesex are once again grouped with their London rivals, Surrey, so will be looking to claim the bragging rights as they did last season. Somerset are likely to win the group as they have been so impressive over the last few seasons. Hampshire, Gloucestershire and Leicestershire round out the group.
Middlesex will be hoping to finish in the top two places to enable them to reach Division One in the second stage of the competition. In all likelihood, it will be the two London sides and Hampshire vying for second place. If Middlesex do miss out on Division One they will definitely be hoping for a strong showing in Division Two.
Overseas players: Peter Handscomb (Australia)