For Middlesex it was a case of as you were in 2015. The County Championship provided a case of nearly-but-not-quite, while the frailties of the limited-overs formats reared its ugly head once again at Lord’s.
Just two defeats in the 16-game Championship campaign marks a stellar effort from a team expected to be battling relegation, losing only to champions Yorkshire at Headingley and Worcestershire – when there was little to play for except pride.
Middlesex developed a steely nature to their four-day game in 2015, most notably chasing down chasing 402 after conceding 408 in the first innings at Taunton back in April, with their seven draws the highest of any team in the division.
But the lack of stability in the first innings hampered their chances of the title, scoring a paltry amount of batting bonus points – only Durham scored fewer – with an over-dependency on the bowlers to bail them out of trouble.
For a second year in a row, Middlesex also partially spoiled the champions’ party, thrashing Yorkshire by 246 runs having been bowled out for just 104 in the first innings. Having chased down 472 the previous year, Middlesex may hope for the White Rose to visit Lord’s every week.
While the first-class year can be seen as a marked success, the limited-overs exploits were decidedly not. A failure to qualify from either the Royal London One-Day Cup or Natwest T20 Blast group stages tells its own tale of disappointment amidst expectation.
Middlesex finished bottom of the South Group for the second year running, with their T20 skills, or lack of, perhaps, exploited for the “umpteenth time in as many years” as a fan remarked. I’ll leave that gentleman with the final word.
Or perhaps it’s more to do with consistency than talent. Three of Middlesex’s four short-format victories came away from home, while the same number came against teams who reached the last eight of the Blast, indicating the ability to pluck the top performances from the bank on a rare occasion.
The One-Day Cup was far from a roaring success either. Three wins from eight games was not enough to get through a congested Group B, with momentum in that competition failing to be gained, despite Dawid Malan and Nick Gubbins both scoring centuries in a thrilling Duckworth-Lewis encounter at Hove.
The absence of Eoin Morgan and Adam Voges to international duties gave James Franklin a chance with the captain’s armband for large parts of the season, an area he seemed to thrive in at times, possibly staking his claim for the permanent job in the 2016 campaign.
But what of the 2016 campaign? Will Middlesex break their horrific recent limited-overs history, or will their focus remain on toppling Yorkshire at the top of the County Championship’s upper echelon?
LVCC: 2nd, Division One
T20 Blast: 9th, South Group
RLODC: 6th, Group B
Leading LVCC run-scorer: Nick Compton, 1123 runs
Leading wicket-taker: James Harris, 69 wickets
Win %: 38.6%
Player of the Season
With a stellar average of 48.38, Dawid Malan enjoyed a profitable Championship campaign for Middlesex, culminating in an excellent 182* at Trent Bridge. That career-best was followed by an unbeaten 120 against Sussex, but the best was still to come for Malan, who smashed a RLODC 156* – again a career-high – against Glamorgan at Lord’s.
There were no clear breakthroughs for Middlesex, although youngster Nick Gubbins revelled in the One-Day Cup at the top of the order. The 21-year-old made a century and two 50s in the competition, boasting an average of over 56 by the season’s end.
Could have been better
Despite regularly showing his credentials for England, the contributions of Eoin Morgan for his county were few and far between. The Irishman averaged just ten in his four County Championship outings, while scoring only 20 runs in his three Royal London fixtures.
Need to work on
With Neil Dexter opting for a move to Leicestershire, Middlesex are left with just one genuine all-rounder – however hard Steven Finn works on his batting – and that will likely be an area of concern heading into next year.
A good, but not quite great, season for Middlesex, who relied too much on their bowlers in the Championship to aim for the title. As for the limited-overs, the less said the better perhaps. 6/10