Middlesex Season Preview 2024

Middlesex Season Preview 2024

Middlesex had a difficult 2023 on and off the field, including being relegated straight back down to Division Two of the Championship. They were found guilty of breaches of the ECB’s financial regulations and have been handed both a points deduction across all formats and financial penalties, which are suspended until October 2025, conditional on business, financial and governance plans being prepared for approval and monitoring by the ECB.

The good news for the county is the recent announcement of a net profit of £131,000 for the financial year ending November 2023, the first annual profit the club have returned since winning the County Championship in 2016.

Middlesex have the problem of essentially being visitors at their home ground and this is highlighted by the decision to play two of their home T20 games this season at Chelmsford rather than one of their outgrounds. The decision is described as a trial and has been taken because of the costs of staging games at club grounds. Unsurprisingly it has not gone down well with members. Prior to COVID there had been an announcement that there was an intention to build a new outground in Barnet, to use as a home base when Lord’s is unavailable, but this does not appear to have progressed.

On the field it was a failure to score runs that was the main problem, registering just five batting bonus points through the season. These batting frailties led to nine losses from the 14 championship games played.

Ryan Higgins was the stand out player, topping the batting with 955 runs at 41.52, as well as taking 31 championship wickets at 27.51. Sam Robson scored 856 runs at 37.21, but none of the other batters averaged over 29. Steve Eskinazi has promised much, but had a very disappointing season and Middlesex will be hoping that the move of Leus du Plooy from Derbyshire will reinvigorate the middle order. He was the third highest run scorer in the Championship, with 1236 at 82.40 and will also boost Middlesex’s T20 efforts.

One notable absence will be John Simpson, who has moved to Sussex despite having a year left on his Middlesex contract. The 35-year-old, three-times capped England one-day international has made regular match-changing contributions with the bat over the years and his place behind the stumps will likely be filled by Jack Davies or Robbie White.

Young seamer Ethan Bamber fulfilled our predictions as the “One to Watch”, leading the county’s wicket-taking in the Championship with 41 at 25.65. The pace attack will provide a challenge to the second division batters, despite the retirement of Tim Murtagh, who stays at Lords as a coach. Henry Brookes has been recruited from Warwickshire, with Tom Helm, Toby Roland-Jones, Martin Andersson and Blake Cullen, alongside Higgins, making up the other seam options. Josh de Caires provided the main spin threat, taking 27 Championship wickets at 25.59. The 21-year-old made his club debut back in 2021 as an opening batter and while he is still making useful contributions down the order, it is his off-spin that is securing his place.

Middlesex’s performances in the white ball formats was once again disappointing. They finished bottom of the South Group in the Blast, with just three wins and at the lower end of their group in the One Day cup, with just two. They did not have access to big overseas signings, relying on Pieter Malan throughout the season. He managed just 221 runs from 16 innings in the Championship and 206 runs from eight T20 matches and although he played an important role in Middlesex’s promotion challenge in 2022, having joined the side half way through the season, he was released a month early last summer. As yet no overseas players have been announced for this season.

Key player

Ryan Higgins rejoined Middlesex last season, after five years with Gloucestershire. He debuted for Middlesex as a 19-year-old in the Blast, back in 2014, having moved from Zimbabwe.

It took another three years to break into the Championship side, but the following year he moved to the West Country, because of the competition for a regular seam bowling spot. He immediately made an impact and helped them to promotion in 2019, going on to establish himself as one of county cricket’s leading all-rounders.

He made almost 4,000 runs and took more than 260 wickets for Gloucestershire, but was keen on a return to London, initially playing on loan at the end of the 2022 season, as Middlesex pushed for promotion. He has shown his worth in all formats and was drafted by the Welsh Fire for the 2022 season of The Hundred. Undoubtedly he will be at the centre of any successes Middlesex have on the field.

One to watch

Blake Cullen is another from the seam bowling factory that appears to exist at Lords. Now 22-years-old, he burst onto the scene as a teenager, making his debut for the second team at the age of 15. Aged 17, he opened the bowling for England at the 2020 Under-19 World Cup and made his first team debut for Middlesex in the same year. In 2021 Cullen was drafted by the London Spirit, playing in all their matches in that year’s Hundred competition. The 2022 season was blighted by injury and he only played in eight Blast games last year, alongside two One-Day cup matches. After such a bright start to his career, Cullen will be hoping to bounce back in 2024.

Overseas signings: TBC

Ins: Leus du Plooy (Derbyshire), Henry Brookes (Warwickshire), Noah Cornwell (Academy)

Outs: Tim Murtagh (retired), John Simpson (Sussex)

How will they fare:

We wait to see who Middlesex are able to bring in as overseas signings, but it seems likely that financial restrictions may limit their scope. The likelihood is that this will be another tough season for coach Richard Johnson and his squad and their supporters will certainly be getting very frustrated about their continuing failures in the white ball formats. If their batters can get some runs on the board, their bowling resources might be able to get them some results in the Championship.

Opening fixture: CC vs Glamorgan on April 5 at Lord’s


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