The early stages of the 2015 county season will be somewhat diminished by the absence of the England Test squad but, perhaps surprisingly given their respective contributions to the national side in recent summers, both Middlesex and Nottinghamshire are at close to full strength for their Lord’s encounter.
The home team have received a particular boost thanks to the availability of Sam Robson and Steven Finn and with in-form Australian Adam Voges also on board for the first four games of the season they will feel that they are well placed to break the 10-game winless streak that dragged them into the relegation mix at the back end of last summer.
The London club have recruited well over the winter, bringing in Nick Compton and James Franklin as well as Voges, but some concerns remain about batting fragility and a bowling attack that has at times lacked variation. They will be looking to put that right against a team that they beat by ten wickets in the corresponding fixture exactly a year ago.
Nottinghamshire have not won a red ball game at Lord’s since 2006 but come into the 2015 season hotly tipped. Brendan Taylor is an eye-catching signing, especially in the light of his superb World Cup performances for Zimbabwe, but it is the new new ball pair of Vernon Philander and Will Gidman that could give this year’s Notts side the edge over the team that finished up in fourth place last time round. South African Philander starred for Somerset during his last early season county stint in 2012 whilst Gidman will be making his top flight debut after taking his wickets at 22.28 in 53 Division Two games for Gloucestershire.
Sam Robson’s 163 in this match last April went along way to securing his England call-up but a year on he has it all to prove again after missing out on selection for the tour of the West Indies. The Middlesex opener showed glimpses of how he earned his place during his seven Test matches but if his poor pre-season form continues into the season proper he could slide down the pecking order quickly. It will be interesting to see whether he has modified his technique after being criticised by a number of high profile pundits at the back end of last summer.
Early season conditions are made for bowlers like Vernon Philander and the South African will be looking to get Nottinghamshire off to a flying start before being replaced by Ben Hilfenhaus in June. Philander failed to take a single Championship wicket during his last county stint, with Kent in July 2013, but was devastaing for Somerset in April and May a year earlier. For the first time in a while he has something to prove having taken only 16 wickets in nine Tests since the start of 2014.
Middlesex are without James Franklin, who will be allowed a week to settle in at Lord’s before featuring in the playing XI, and Toby Roland-Jones who has a shoulder niggle. No front-line spinner is named in the squad so Paul Stirling will almost certainly play.
Middlesex squad: Adam Voges (captain), Andrew Balbirnie, Nick Compton, Neil Dexter, Steven Finn, Nick Gubbins, James Harris, Tom Helm, Dawid Malan, Tim Murtagh, Harry Podmore, Sam Robson, John Simpson (wicketkeeper), Paul Stirling
The Notts squad includes four winter signings in Will Gidman, Vernon Philander, Greg Smith and Brendan Taylor. Smith may well miss out on the XI after Steven Mullaney’s century against Loughborough MCCU last week with Jake Ball the other member of a strong 13-man squad likely to be carrying the drinks.
Nottinghamshire squad: Chris Read (captain and wicketkeeper), Jake Ball, Luke Fletcher, Will Gidman, Harry Gurney, Alex Hales, Steven Mullaney, Samit Patel, Vernon Philander, Greg Smith, Brendan Taylor, James Taylor, Riki Wessels
Weather and conditions
It has been an unseasonably warm weak in the capital and that is expected to continue throughout the match with temperatures likely to breach 20 degrees on Tuesday and Wednesday. However, Lord’s pitches usually have something in them in April and whichever captain wins the toss is likely to field first despite sunny overhead conditions.
Date: 12th – 15th April 2015
Ground: Lord’s, London
Umpires: Nick Cook & Nigel Michael Gough
Odds (via SkyBet): Middlesex 11/8, Nottinghamshire 8/13
LV County Championship Match Stats (in assocation with Opta)
- – Middlesex have won their opening Lord’s fixture in the last four Championship seasons.
- – Since the start of 2012 only Steve Magoffin (192) has taken more Championship wickets than Tim Murtagh (177).
- – Samit Patel is one of two players to score at least 2,000 runs and take 50+ wickets in the last three Championship seasons combined, along with Scott Borthwick.