Richmond’s Old Deer Park is all set for a fine evening’s entertainment as Middlesex face Glamorgan in a crucial South Group contest.
Both sides, being firmly in contention for quarter-final qualification, have reinvigorated their fortunes in the shortest form of the game this season.
Middlesex desperately needed a revamp of their whole approach to Twenty20 cricket after coming bottom of the pile in the first two years of the Blast.
Under new skipper Dawid Malan, they are handily placed in fourth to launch an assault on the knockout stages despite a deflating defeat to Sussex last time out.
Their victories against Somerset, in a pulsating six-over game at Lord’s, and Kent- which featured a sparkling opening stand between Malan and Brendon McCullum- particularly caught the eye.
Although McCullum has departed for the Caribbean Premier League and Mitch McClenagan has succumbed to injury, the Seaxes have recruited well to bring in George Bailey who will bring experience to a youthful side.
Glamorgan have been the outstanding side across both divisions of this year’s competition.
Victories in tonight’s game and Sunday’s televised match against Gloucestershire would effectively seal a quarter-final, probably at home, for Jacques Rudolph’s charges who have taken six wins from eight in this competition.
Their bowling unit is extremely impressive, with individuals knowing their roles within the whole markedly well. Without overcomplicating the game, their seam battery manages to force opposing sides to do silly things by creating scoreboard pressure through accuracy.
Timm van der Gugten has been a revelation in county cricket and the bounce offered by Michael Hogan is a real threat. Allied with the sparkling form of David Lloyd, Aneurin Donald and Colin Ingram with the bat, don’t bet against the Welsh side going one better than their footballing counterparts.
While Ryan Higgins has not necessarily caught the eye with weight of runs as of yet, the 21 year-old’s natural talent means that he has the potential to be a match-winner for Middlesex.
Higgins moved from his birthplace in Zimbabwe to Berkshire when he was young and he has consistently impressed with his powerful hitting and, crucially, an ability to clear the rope.
He’s only got 28 in five innings this season but signs are that his form is improving after 75 yesterday in a Second XI game at Radlett. County bowlers will be running for the hills when this lad hits his straps.
As a by-product of Glamorgan’s success in the format, opener David Lloyd has enjoyed a breakout year in Twenty20 cricket.
Shane Warne compared him to Aaron Finch when working for Sky at the Oval earlier this season; while it’s not always right to heap pressure on a young talent through comparison, the stylistic similarities are there- quick hands, strong wrists, low base and power through midwicket.
He has 235 runs this season, including 97* at Kent and 81 last night at Sussex, which has led to his skipper Rudolph and Shaun Tait tipping him for international honours.
Middlesex welcome Eoin Morgan and Dawid Malan, sadly unused in England’s T20 international against Sri Lanka, back into the fold for this game. Meanwhile, overseas player George Bailey- having made an impressive fifty on first-class debut this week- comes in to play his second Blast game.
Middlesex squad: Dawid Malan (C), George Bailey, Stephen Eskinazi, James Franklin, James Fuller, Nick Gubbins, James Harris, Ryan Higgins, Eoin Morgan, Harry Podmore, Ollie Rayner, Toby Roland-Jones, John Simpson (wkt), Nathan Sowter, Paul Stirling
Glamorgan have no reason to change their side after last night’s comprehensive defeat of Sussex.
Glamorgan squad: Jacques Rudolph (C), David Lloyd, Colin Ingram, Anuerin Donald, Chris Cooke, Graham Wagg, Craig Meschede, Shaun Tait, Michael Hogan, Ruaidrdi Smith, Dean Cosker, Timm van der Gugten, Mark Wallace
Weather and conditions
The weather looks good for tonight’s game, with temperatures in the early 20s and several breaks in the cloud early in the piece.
The short boundaries at this outground should make for a high-scoring contest, exemplified in Gloucestershire’s first-innings total of 214 in last year’s game, the first of three straight losses for Middlesex at the venue.
Date: Friday 8th July
Ground: Old Deer Park, Richmond
Umpires: Ian Gould, Martin Saggers
Odds (SkyBet): Middlesex 10/11, Glamorgan 10/11