Middlesex Season Preview

Middlesex Season Preview

For a club of the size and stature of Middlesex, 2021 was undoubtedly a year to forget. The club is in transition from the glory days of the County Championship title win in 2016, with the emphasis on bringing academy talent into the first team, and while there are some promising results in the bowling unit from the likes of Ethan Bamber and Blake Cullen, the batting was held together by the old guard of Sam Robson as they struggled to post first innings runs with only 4 first innings totals over 300 throughout the whole season. The bowling unit remained as competitive as ever, with the evergreen Tim Murtagh picking up 58 wickets, and Bamber a very creditable 52. Injuries and form to key bowlers such as Toby Roland-Jones meant they lacked consistent support to back up the new ball threat.

In white ball cricket they fared little better with only 6 wins in 21 matches across the Royal London One Day Cup and the Vitality Blast. Again, the batting was a major factor with only Stevie Eskinazi managing a white ball 100 for the club after being brought back into the fold following his exile from the side for significant parts of the season. This time the bowling lacked the firepower they possessed with the red ball with only Ethan Bamber making into double figures in the wicket’s column.

The squad has seen a minor overhaul with experienced pro’s leave the club such as Nick Gubbins who made his loan move to Hampshire permanent, James Harris returns to Glamorgan, Steven Finn leave for Sussex, and Paul Stirling take up a white ball deal with Warwickshire. In their place comes Mark Stoneman, who made his loan move from Surrey permanent following a promising start to his Middlesex career last season. The 2022 overseas contingent includes Australia’s Peter Handscomb as red ball captain, Pakistani fast bowler Shaheen Afridi until mid-July for the T20 Blast and County Championship, and Afghani left-arm spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman who returns for another season in the Blast. These signings undoubtedly strengthen the first XI in red ball cricket, and it will be interesting to see if Afridi can stay fit as he will be handful for top-order batters up and down the country on early season wickets. Further pleasing news is that left arm spinner Thilan Walallawita has been granted British citizenship so may get more opportunities after having to be classified as an overseas player in 2021.

Despite these signings, much will still rest on the shoulders of an experienced top order, both of whom will know that a strong early season showing could give them an outside shot at England honours if the test side’s winter travails are anything to go by. The red ball batting still looks fallow, and the like of Robbie White, Martin Andersson, and Max Holden will need to start making more substantial contributions if the club are to make a challenge for promotion from Division 2. The red ball bowling is as strong as ever, and if Roland-Jones and Tom Helm can stay fit and complement the likes of Murtagh, Bamber and Afridi then they will fancy their chances of picking up 20 wickets a game. In the spin department, Luke Hollman looks a useful prospect, as does Walalawita but expect the seamers to do the bulk of the work.

In white ball cricket there looks a similar lack of firepower and quality to play the expressive style of cricket now demanded in the modern age. Eskinazi looks to have expanded his game for white ball cricket, and much will depend on him to provide runs, Holden also had a better time of things in the Royal London One Day Cup and he may become a key part of the white ball outfit. They may also expect more runs from Eoin Morgan should he be available more often. Also expect the likes of Walallawita, Tom Helm, and Nathan Sowter to form a key part of the white ball bowling unit which looks useful indeed. Despite this, it looks unlikely that the club will make any major challenge for white ball honours.

Overall, you would not expect the club to be challenging for honours, but with the signings they have made they should expect a better time of things in the County Championship, and this may be their best hope for success this season.

Key Player

Sam Robson was the kingpin of the County Championship batting unit last season with 1047 runs at 40.26 and can consider himself unlucky not to be closer to England selection. His top order partnership with Mark Stoneman, two discarded England openers who seem to have been forgotten about by the selectors, will be key especially on early season pitches and both of whom have the capacity to make big scores once set.

One to Watch

Blake Cullen looks a real prospect with the ball, and the young seamer showed glimpses of his potential in the Vitality Blast with 20 wickets and also impressed in the Hundred for the London Spirit where he finished as leading wicket taker for clubs. He has the potential to swing the ball both ways at pace and gets bounce with his height. His opportunities with the red ball may be limited this season if the star names of Roland-Jones, Bamber, Afridi, Helm and Murtagh stay fit, so expect him to remain a key part of their white ball attack.


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