Summary/description of season
The Londoners have had a pretty miserable 2023 season having been relegated from County Championship Division One, finishing bottom of their group in the One Day Cup, and failing to make the knockout stages of the Vitality Blast.
On paper, the club had a strong looking squad, but the batting failed to fire consistently across formats with only five hundreds in total being made across all three competitions, with four batters in the top 10 for the most ducks in Division One. The end result was a paltry eight wins out of 36 matches across all competitions.
The bowlers toiled hard but lacked the incision to bail the batters out of trouble on a regular basis. Ethan Bamber was the standout with Ryan Higgins providing economical support. Veteran seamer Tim Murtagh also toiled away resolutely in his final season of professional cricket, but skipper Toby Roland-Jones had a poor year by his lofty standards with 27 wickets at 35.29. The club did manage to unearth a real gem, as Josh De Caires, the son of former England captain Mike Atherton, had a breakthrough season. With his off spin, alongside his batting potential, he could form the backbone of the side alongside the likes of Ryan Higgins for a few years to come. He fills the spin bowling all rounder spot that the club had been lacking for some time.
The batting unit had a poor season considering the experience and quality amongst them. Only Ryan Higgins and Sam Robson threatened the 1000 run mark in the County Championship, and only the aforementioned two batters averaged more than 30 against the red ball. Overseas pro Pieter Malan had a poor season, managing only two half centuries in 16 innings, and averaging a meagre 14.73. As mentioned previously, the batters only managed five hundreds in all competitions, with Robson scoring 3 of them in an exceptional run of end of season form in the County Championship when it almost seemed like he was taking the opposition bowling on his own, twice carrying his bat for unbeaten hundreds, and once being the last man out for 86.
The Blast was also a miserable experience with only three wins out of 14. The batting unit was carried by Max Holden and Steve Eskinazi, but the bowling unit failed to exert any form of control or incision as no one managed an economy rate of under 8.5 runs per over or took more than 12 wickets. The club had no specialist t20 overseas player this season, and they were badly in need of some white ball stardust and nous, something which the club must rectify for 2024 if they are hoping to compete for white ball honours.
Middlesex were more competitive in the One Day Cup, finishing seventh in their group, with some of the young batting talent showing a little bit of potential, as the likes of Martin Andersson and Joe Cracknell had good seasons, both averaging over 40. Despite this, the lack of big, match defining scores was the key failing in the campaign, with only Andersson managing three figures once. The bowlers were able to exert a little more control but lacked penetration as no one managed more than Ethan Bamber’s 12 wickets.
LV=CC: 9th – Division One (relegated)
Vitality Blast: 9th – Southern Group
One Day Cup: 7th – Group A
Leading Run scorers
LV=CC: Ryan Higgins – 955 runs at 41.52
Vitality Blast: Max Holden – 420 runs at 38.18 (SR 185.02)
One Day Cup: Martin Andersson – 203 runs at 50.75
Leading Wicket Takers:
LV=CC: Ethan Bamber – 41 wickets at 25.65
Vitality Blast: Tom Helm – 12 wickets at 42.25 (10.24 runs per over)
One Day Cup: Ethan Bamber – 12 wickets at 21.58
Player of the Season:
Ryan Higgins – Overall – 1617 @ 39.43 / 53 wickets @ 30.64
Josh De Caires – the son of Athers had a golden end to the season with his off spin. He took 10/190 in the match against Essex at Chelmsford including 8/106 in the first innings after only being included in the starting XI because overseas signing Jayant Yadav’s visa was delayed. He took 16 wickets in the final four first class games, as well as contributing handy runs in the lower middle order. He has the ability to bat higher up the order and may end up at the top of the order eventually, but his spin has been a handy addition and filled what looked to be an obvious gap in the side after Luke Hollman was given first chance to fill the role but managed only 5 wickets in 8 games.
Could have done better:
Mark Stoneman – the former England opener managed a meagre 612 runs in the Championship at a paltry average of 22.66. Pitches at Lord’s often offered a fair bit of assistance for the new ball so a little bit of mitigation can be offered here, but the fact that the side were often 2 or 3 wickets down for less than 50 meant they were often on the back foot. ‘Rocky’ has been one of the more consistent openers on the county circuit for the last few years and the club will need him back to something near his best for 2024.
Need to work on:
In the red ball game, the top order batting is likely to need looking at for 2024. The club will also need to take a closer look at their overseas recruitment to strengthen the batting, as Pieter Malan was a huge disappointment. It is promising that they have already entered the transfer market to sign Leus du Plooy from Derbyshire which is a real statement of intent.
In the white ball game, the club has some talented young players to rely on and will continue to blossom if given more opportunities, but they need an experienced overseas pro to guide them, provide that nous, and star quality if they are to progress.
The club will need to rebuild and strengthen the batting and have made positive moves in that direction already with the signing of Leus du Plooy who was one of the top run scorers in Division Two in 2023 with 1236 runs at 82.40, second only to Alex Lees.
However, the club are in something of a financial vice, in large part due to the recent allegations of financial mismanagement by former CEO Richard Goatley over inappropriately claimed expenses, and current CEO Andrew Cornish which triggered investigations by the Financial Conduct Authority regarding poor governance after he allegedly awarded himself a 50% pay rise. This undoubtedly contributed to the ECB’s finding that the club have breached ECB Financial Regulations after racking up losses and spending money allocated for youth and grassroots cricket on their professional set-up at Lord’s, resulting in fines of £150,000 and a suspended 12-point deduction in the County Championship. The punishment also includes a new business plan imposing tighter spending limits on playing budgets, so recruitment for 2024 may be more of a challenge now.
Season Rating: 3/10