This match sees two sides struggling in the South Group meet with identical result records. Both have just one win each from their opening three games of this campaign. Middlesex shade ahead of Somerset in seventh due to their marginally better run rate.
Somerset notoriously have been a stronger white-ball side, whilst Middlesex have historically been more successful in the longer form of the game, most notably pipping Somerset and Yorkshire to the County Championship title in 2016.
Somerset had a great start to the season, beating Gloucestershire by six wickets at Taunton, but lost the reverse fixture, a surprisingly damp, reduced overs, cider derby last time out. The recent humid weather caused a sharp thunderstorm in Bristol during the exact hours West Country cricket fans didn’t want it to occur.
The head-to-head between the two sides in T20 cricket sees Somerset having won seven of the 12 matches, including winning both of the two meetings last season.
The away side’s squad is boosted by the confirmation this week that Azhar Ali will join Somerset for the remaining County Championship games starting at Worcestershire on Sunday and that Marcus Trescothick is back to full fitness having recently played for the second eleven and even bowled in a friendly match against the Western Storm KSL side at Newton Abbot earlier this week! But neither are part of Jason Kerr’s white ball plans, favouring youth and the Kiwi overseas Corey Anderson for T20s.
Middlesex too won their season opener, against Surrey, but lost their latest two matches at the hands of Essex and Gloucestershire. Being in Division Two now, Lord’s hosts fewer top-class Division One sides this year, a factor that could give Middlesex even more drive to perform in the white-ball competition. Having had little success with the Brisbane Heat and Royal Challengers Bangalore in the respective Big Bash and IPL competitions earlier this year, Middlesex T20 coach Daniel Vettori may too be even more motivated to have a good run in the Vitality Blast.
Any England captain returning to play for his county side would seemingly be the obvious key man selection. But this has not been the case in recent years. So highly is Eoin Morgan’s captaincy rated that, despite long ruts of disappointing personal results with the bat over the last few years, he has still kept his spot as England limited overs skipper.
This Tuesday’s emphatic victory over (ODI GOAT rival captain) Virat Kohli’s India saw Morgan score a fluent 88*, only lack of strike at the end deprived him of the chance to beat Joe Root to a match winning hundred and inevitable man-of-the-match award. He is sure to take this form into what is, on paper, a weaker Somerset attack than the Indian bowlers, though the latter men did not show their best on Tuesday!
Having barely figured in the County Championship this season, Western Super Mare’s famous television personality Pete Trego had a point to prove with the start of the Vitality Blast. He did not disappoint, scoring 72* in Somerset’s opening win over Gloucestershire, guiding the more westerly west country side over the line. Subsequent scores of just five in the last two Blast fixtures and only one wicket from his three T20 bowls so far this year will see Trego possibly even more fired up than usual at the home of cricket.
Morgan’s return boosts the Middlesex squad but England Lions are depriving the London side of Nick Gubbins and Dawid Malan, though Steven Finn is expected to return. Ashton Agar is likely to make his Middlesex debut, replacing Hilton Cartwright to join Dwayne Bravo as their second overseas player. Daniel Vettori leaves Ravi Patel out of the squad.
James Fuller, Tom Helm, George Scott and James Harris all retain their places, but two will likely miss out with Finn, Sowter and Agar likely to make the starting 11, expecting two spinners (plus Paul Stirling’s more than useful part-time off spin) on a dry July wicket.
Middlesex squad: Eoin Morgan (c), Ashton Agar, Dwayne Bravo, Stephen Eskinazi, Steven Finn, James Fuller, James Harris, Tom Helm, Max Holden, George Scott, John Simpson (wk), Nathan Sowter, Paul Stirling
Somerset are still without Tim Groenewald (groin) whilst Jack Leach and Dom Bess are on England Lions duty against India A this week, so Head Coach Jason Kerr has called up Dutch fast bowler Paul van Meekeren. Somerset do not have obvious weaker or inexperienced players in this 13-man squad, so the final 11 may simply come down to a gut-feeling from Kerr or whoever looks or feels best on the day.
Somerset squad: Tom Abell, Corey Anderson, Josh Davey, Steve Davies (wk), Lewis Gregory (c), James Hildreth, Johann Myburgh, Craig Overton, Jamie Overton, Peter Trego, Roelof van der Merwe, Paul van Meekeren, Max Waller.
Weather and Conditions
The longest drought in living memory still sees grass looking more like straw but, being Lords, the Home of Cricket, they have a very efficient sprinkler/hosing system, so the outfield is looking as luscious and green as ever. Thursday evening sees overcast conditions forecast, these may suit the likes of Pete Trego and Steven Finn to get some movement on what will likely still be a rock hard, benign surface for the bowlers.
Date: 19th July 2018
Odds (SkyBet): Middlesex 4/5, Somerset 1/1