If last year’s form were to be any guide, this would be a match contested by a couple of no-hopers. Gloucestershire and Middlesex propped up the Southern Group table in 2014. Middlesex in particular had a disastrous campaign, losing 11 of their 14 matches.
The truth is, of course, that form counts for little in this shortest form of the game, especially with most teams bringing in new talent. Middlesex will be hoping that there will be a carry over of their outstanding results in the County Championship and Gloucestershire return to Bristol fresh from a sensational win over Lancashire in the four-day format. So there is all to play for at the newly-developed Nevil Road ground this evening.
For Gloucestershire, Australian Peter Handscomb is providing cover for the absent Michael Klinger. He played for the Melbourne Stars in Australia’s Big Bash and currently boasts a T20 batting average of 171- and yes, that is not a mis-print. He has only been dismissed once in eight innings. This included a 64-ball hundred (unbeaten, of course) against the Perth Scorchers. No other Stars batsman topped 20 and he finished with a six that brought up his ton and won the match. Gloucestershire will settle for more innings in that mould.
Middlesex will be captained by New Zealander James Franklin in the absence of Eoin Morgan – a pseudo-Irishman (with Irish ancestry) deputising for a real one. As a T20 bowler, Franklin has only once taken four wickets in 171 matches. But his batting is always dangerous, and Managing Director of Cricket Angus Fraser has praised Franklin’s “calm, mature and measured persona.” These qualities are likely to be as important as his skills as an all-rounder if it proves to be a close contest tonight.
Gloucestershire, like their opponents, have a new captain in Ian Cockbain, standing in for Klinger. New Zealand all-rounder Kieran Noema-Barnett will make his T20 team debut and veteran Geraint Jones will be behind the stumps. One or maybe both of the spinners, Jack Taylor and Tom Smith, will be in action.
Middlesex, in addition to Handscomb, Middlesex have fellow Australian Joe Burns in the squad to add power to the batting line-up, where they will miss Eoin Morgan’s versatile shot-making at least as much as his captaincy. Dawid Malan is recovering from the broken bone in his hand but is not yet fit to play and Kyle Abbott is still on IPL duty.
Gloucestershire squad: Ian Cockbain (c), Chris Dent, Peter Handscomb, Hamish Marshall, Geraint Jones (wk), Kieron Noema-Barnett, Benny Howell, Jack Taylor, James Fuller, Tom Smith, David Payne, Matt Taylor, Robbie Montgomery
Middlesex squad: James Franklin (c), Andy Balbirnie, Joe Burns, Nick Compton, Neil Dexter, Steven Finn, James Harris, Ravi Patel, Harry Podmore, Ollie Rayner, Toby Roland-Jones, John Simpson, Paul Stirling, Adam Voges
Weather and Conditions
The forecast is for a cloudy but dry evening with temperatures in the range of 12-14 degrees, so best to take a coat but leave the umbrella behind. Heavy rain yesterday may mean a slowish outfield but shouldn’t have any bearing on the pitch itself. For a clue as to how it will play, check out whether Gloucestershire opt to play both their spinners.
Date: 15th May
Ground: Nevil Road, Bristol
Umpires: Nigel Cowley and Jeremy Lloyds
Odds (Skybet): Gloucestershire 4/5; Middlesex 1/1
Natwest T20 Blast Match Stats (in association with Opta):
Gloucestershire have won all five of their T20 matches against Middlesex.
Gloucestershire have been involved in five of the nine highest totals in English T20s (two for, three against).