The T20 Blast returns to Old Deer Park in the shadow of the famous Kew Gardens Pagoda as Middlesex seek to re-awaken hopes of a first quarter-final appearance since they won the competition back in 2008.
This summer the Londoners have shown a significant improvement in a format they have struggled badly with in recent years. However, defeats to Hampshire and Glamorgan last week have seen them slip back to seventh place in the table and so a third win is a must if they are not to be cut adrift from the leaders.
Inviting comparisons with the England national team, a more adventurous approach, especially with the bat, has helped Middlesex to put past demons to bed. Back-to-back Paul Stirling powered totals of 205 and 221 – unthinkable during previous campaigns – against Sussex and Kent were the result and they will be keen to rekindle that momentum.
Gloucestershire also made a bright start to this year’s Blast, including a seven wicket win over Middlesex in the reverse fixture at Bristol in which Ian Cockbain scored an unbeaten 91. But they too have dropped back into the pack after back-to-back losses, each of which came despite unbeaten centuries from Michael Klinger. Klinger’s team lacks experience and among their supporters there will be a fear that they will drop away badly if they don’t return to winning ways at Richmond.
This is Gloucestershire’s first visit to Middlesex’s most southerly venue, but they will take confidence from their overall record against today’s opponents – they have not lost any of the previous seven meetings.
In the form he’s currently in, it is impossible to look past Paul Stirling as Middlesex’s key man. The Irishman thrashed 90 and 88 in his last two T20 Blast appearances, setting up totals of over 200 on each occasion, before transferring that success to red ball cricket with 146 against UAE in the Intercontinental Cup and 254 in the Second XI Championship against Glamorgan. He is due a failure, but Middlesex fans will be keen that it doesn’t come at Richmond.
Gloucestershire raised a few eyebrows with the choice of Peter Handscomb, an uncapped Australian, as one of their T20 overseas players. So far his stint has not gone to plan with scores of 1, 8, 7, 4 and 9 and so the 24-year-old will be desperate to show English fans what he can do. In a generally inexperienced line-up he will surely need to come to the party if his side are to make it to the knock-outs. Michael Klinger cannot go on doing all of the batting himself.
Middlesex will be without Eoin Morgan due to ODI commitments, allowing James Franklin set to take on the captaincy against his old county. Paul Stirling is back from international duty after missing the last two games and will come in for Dawid Malan, who has suffered a groin strain. Kyle Abbott makes what is expected to be his penultimate appearance before joining South Africa’s tour of Bangladesh.
Middlesex squad: James Franklin (c), Kyle Abbott, Andrew Balbirnie, Joe Burns, Nick Compton, Neil Dexter, Nick Gubbins, James Harris, Harry Podmore, Ollie Rayner, Toby Roland-Jones, John Simpson (wk), Nathan Sowter, Paul Stirling
Gloucestershire are yet to name a squad at the time of writing but with a small squad they have little room to make changes to the XI they have been putting out so far.
Gloucestershire squad: tbc
Weather and conditions
An overcast day with temperatures on the cold side for June is anticipated. The pitch at Richmond is generally batsman friendly, though it can be a tad slow, which can inhibit strokemaking.
Date: Sunday 14th June
Ground: Old Deer Park, Richmond
Umpires: Martin Bodenham and Graham Lloyd
Odds (SkyBet): Middlesex 8/11, Gloucestershire 11/10