The reigning county champions take a trip to the seaside as they head to Southport in pursuit of their first win of the season against Lancashire.
Four draws from their opening four matches have left Middlesex in sixth and trailing behind the leading pack, but they have played two games fewer than current table-toppers Hampshire. Weather hasn’t been particularly kind to the side who clinched the title on the final day of last season and it played its part again as they were frustrated in a draw against Somerset at Lord’s last week.
They are one place and nine points behind opponents Lancashire in the Division One table but the Red rose have played a game more. Skipper James Franklin isn’t unduly concerned about their winless start and hopes a first win can spark his side into a run of form.
“We must remember that it is a marathon, not a sprint, and we’ve still got 10 Championship games to go and I’m hoping we’ll get one win and then build momentum,” Franklin told the club website.
“There’s no panic stations yet. Last year it took us seven games to get our first win, we’re only four games in for 2017, and things can change a lot within a month. We’re not playing badly, we’re just not quite firing on all cylinders.”
Lancashire have won just once so far themselves, drawing three of their matches, before suffering a thumping innings defeat at the hands of fierce rivals Yorkshire at Headingley last week.
Last season, defeat at Headingley in the sixth game of the campaign started a run of poor form that saw Lancashire fail to win another game for the rest of the season. The Red Rose will hope that defeat in the fifth game this time around doesn’t trigger a similar run.
These two sides squared off at Old Trafford in the penultimate game of the season in 2016, with Middlesex securing a draw that helped push them towards their title success.
It’s now less than a month to the first Test against South Africa and Lancashire opener Haseeb Hameed is running out of chances to reclaim his spot at the top of the England order. The 20-year-old impressed before breaking a thumb against India in the winter and was expected to return to the international setup this summer.
But a string of poor Championship performances have put that in doubt. Since making two 40s in the opener against Essex, Hameed has Championship scores of 0, 0, 7, 0, 9, and 10. He needs a big innings to provide a nudge to the England selectors.
Sam Robson might be a contender to take that opening spot himself. The right-hander started the season in fine form, notching one century and two half-centuries from his four innings. But an injury has ruled the former England opener out for the last five weeks and curtailed his excellent start. Robson returns to the squad this week and will hope that a continuation of that early season form might be enough to put him back in the England frame once again.
Liam Livingstone returns to the Lancashire squad after missing the Yorkshire game due to England Lions commitments. Saqib Mahmood is set to continue with Kyle Jarvis and James Anderson still injured.
Lancashire squad: Steven Croft (c), Tom Bailey, Jordan Clark, Alex Davies (wk), Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Haseeb Hameed, Danny Lamb, Arron Lilley, Liam Livingstone, Ryan McLaren, Saqib Mahmood, Stephen Parry, Luke Procter, Dane Vilas
There’s plenty of change to the Middlesex squad for various reasons. Dawid Malan returns after enjoying success with the England Lions, while James Harris is also included in the squad after his loan spell at Kent came to an end. He helps fill the gap left by Steven Finn’s call-up to the Champions Trophy squad.
Nick Compton is omitted, the club instead choosing to pick him in the Second Eleven Trophy final, while Adam Voges has returned to Australia for treatment on his torn calf. Robson returns to take his place.
Middlesex Squad: James Franklin (c), Stephen Eskinazi, Nick Gubbins, James Harris, Tom Helm, Dawid Malan, Tim Murtagh, Ravi Patel, Ollie Rayner, Sam Robson, Toby Roland-Jones, John Simpson (wk), Paul Stirling
Weather and Conditions
You could be forgiven for mistaking it for winter in the North West this week, rather than the start of June. The first day of this match looks fine and relatively sunny, though windy, but Saturday is set to be affected by the rain – potentially wiping out the whole day. Rain may play a part on the Merseyside coast on Sunday as well.
Date: 9th – 12th June 2017
Ground: Southport and Birkdale Cricket Club
Umpires: David Milns & Steve O’Shaughnessy
Odds (SkyBet): Lancashire 1/1, Middlesex 4/5