Middlesex are back at Lord’s this week, facing Leicestershire.
While both are currently in the bottom half of the table, this is not a true reflection of the home side’s quality, having only played two games. Middlesex look like a team who will be challenging hard for promotion, while Leicestershire may be scrapping for draws. They managed to do this in the first two rounds, thanks to some tail end heroics against Worcestershire and a more resilient batting display against Durham. However, in the last round they suffered an innings defeat to Derbyshire.
Middlesex, meanwhile, had a rather tame draw in round one against Derbyshire and then, after missing the second week of games, inflicted a crushing innings defeat on Glamorgan. This was thanks mainly to their bowlers who, alongside John Simpson’s century, were the main contributors to their 214 run first innings lead. When they came to bowl, the arrival of Shaheen Shah Afridi has added pace to the nagging accuracy of Tim Murtagh, Toby Roland-Jones et al. This attack has the ability to regularly take the 20 wickets needed for maximum points and there are quality batters in the top order to back them up. Currently odds of 7/1 to win the Division Two title look generous.
Sam Robson missed out on the first game because of injury and contributed just 21 runs in Cardiff. However, he will be looking to build on last season’s performances, which led to him passing the 1000 run mark in the Championship. His seven Tests were all played in the summer of 2014, when aged 25. Eight years on, he might be of an age that is better suited to the trials of Test cricket and his first class average of 37.5 is an improvement on the figures of the current incumbents.
Leicestershire are looking to their two South African overseas bowlers, Beuran Hendricks and Wiaan Mulder to take wickets, but at present it is a young seamer, Ed Barnes, who is leading the way. A product of the Yorkshire Academy, he made his first class debut whilst on loan to Derbyshire in 2020, before moving permanently to Leicestershire in 2021. In the last game against Derbyshire, he took his maiden five wicket haul and has also contributed some useful lower order runs. Leicestershire will be hoping he continues to improve.
Middlesex will be without their skipper Tim Murtagh, who is recovering from a mild hamstring tear and Steve Eskinazi with an injured thumb. However, there are still plenty of options in both the batting and bowling departments to create some tricky selection decisions. Never a bad problem to have!
The squad sees just one change, with spinner Thilan Walallawita missing out, having been withdrawn from the squad with a sore shoulder, to be replaced by Luke Hollman, who comes into the squad for the first time this year.
Middlesex squad: Peter Handscomb (c), Shaheen Shah Afridi, Martin Andersson, Ethan Bamber, Josh De Caires, Tom Helm, Max Holden, Luke Hollman, Sam Robson, Toby Roland-Jones, John Simpson (wk), Mark Stoneman, Robbie White
Leicestershire do not have the same squad resources as the home team, but have been able to rotate their seam bowlers. Will Davis picked up an injury in the last game but Chris Wright should be back. Lewis Hill is out with a fractured thumb and it is not clear if Rishi Patel will be fit. Skipper Colin Ackerman will need to lead from the front if they are to compete in this game.
Leicestershire squad: TBC
Weather and Conditions
While a north-easterly breeze is liable to keep a lid on temperatures, the forecast is set fair for all four days.
The only Championship game played at Lord’s this season was a draw, but we expect that the bowlers will take wickets and create a positive conclusion to the match. Alex Thomson, the Derbyshire off-spinner, took four wickets in the first innings of the match in round one, so hopefully an attack with variety will prosper.
Date: 28th April – 1st May 2022
Odds (SkyBet): Middlesex 4/11; Leicestershire 2/1