Middlesex will be looking to replicate their Merchant Taylor’s four-day success when Gloucestershire make the trip to Northwood for what’s set to be a thrilling Natwest T20 Blast clash.
The hosts had previously been frustrated by six consecutive Specsavers County Championship stalemates, despite boasting a winning position in the majority.
But the week’s win over Hampshire has propelled their four-day season, with James Fuller believing it can have an impact on their short-form cricket too.
“This game was massive for us and the win will give us confidence,” he said.
“We have been building since the start of the four-day campaign, getting better every game and sometimes getting into positions where we could have won but because of the weather that was taken away from us.
“The win gives us impetus and for the guys who are playing both formats they will carry that sort of energy into the one-day campaign.”
If momentum across formats is a pertinent factor, the Gloucestershire may become the latest beneficiaries after their incredible four-day win in the week.
Declaring behind in their first innings and marooned on 141-5 in a chase of 315, Michael Klinger and Jack Taylor orchestrated one of the best counter attacks ever seen in a four-day game.
The two each made centuries, Taylor’s 107 coming from 72 balls, as Gloucestershire strolled to victory by five wickets in Worcestershire.
But the opening to the Bristollians T20 campaign was not quite so fortuitous. After watching Sussex rack up more than 240, Gloucestershire’s chase, halted by rain, ended one run short on the D/L/S method, their only performance to date.
Middlesex, perennial underachievers in the tournament, got off to a rather stronger start, delivering a commanding victory over Hampshire.
The two also faced off at an outground last year when Gloucestershire visited Old Deer Park in Richmond, racking up 214-7 thanks to Ian Cockbain’s 75. It proved too much for Middlesex, largely thanks to David Payne’s five wickets in spite of John Simpson’s 74 in resistance.
Cockbain starred in last season’s reverse fixture, as his unbeaten 91 helped chase down 179 within 19 overs, despite Steven Finn’s two wickets at Bristol. In fact, Middlesex have failed to beat Gloucestershire in their last eight meetings in the format.
A certain New Zealander, in Brendon McCullum, is set to make his season debut for Middlesex having played for the Gujarat Lions in the IPL. Now retired from international cricket McCullum, should he handle the occasion, is expected to pepper the short Northwood boundaries, but will surely have seen the disappointing opening from fellow IPL star Chris Gayle for Somerset last night.
Despite the team being hit around the park by Sussex last week, left-arm spinner Tom Smith was excellent to avoid the same fate, conceding fewer than eight runs per over. A former Middlesex player until the end of 2013, Smith will have familiarity with those coming to Merchant Taylor’s, and was incredible in the only other occasion he’s faced the North Londoners, taking 1-13 from his four overs.
Who’d have thought it? Middlesex having selection headaches for a T20 clash. But that’s exactly what faces format captain Dawid Malan who has the IPL duo of Brendon McCullum and Eoin Morgan to factor into his plans, while overseas names James Franklin and Adam Voges are also to set to bolster a powerful batting line-up.
Middlesex squad: Dawid Malan (captain), James Franklin, James Fuller, James Harris, Ryan Higgins, Brendon McCullum, Eoin Morgan, Ravi Patel, Harry Podmore, Toby Roland-Jones, John Simpson (wicket-keeper) Nathan Sowter, Paul Stirling, Adam Voges
Jack Taylor has been suspended from bowling for the ECB, but could feature as a lower-order batsman should Gloucestershire find room in the side.
Gloucestershire squad: TBC
Weather and Conditions
Short boundaries, a nice pitch and some big hitters – a recipe for big scoring! And after an early forecast of cloud, the sunshine may just about break through for a gorgeous, if slightly nippy, summer evening.
Date: Thursday 2nd June
Ground: Merchant Taylor’s School, Northwood
Umpires: Neil Mallender & Ben Debenham
Odds (via SkyBet): Middlesex 8/13, Gloucestershire 5/4