Vitality County Championship Match Preview: Gloucestershire v Middlesex

Vitality County Championship Match Preview: Gloucestershire v Middlesex

Middlesex, looking for their second win, travel to Bristol.

Middlesex will be full of confidence having seen off a strong Yorkshire side last week, while Gloucestershire will be hoping to bounce back following their loss to Sussex. It waits to be seen how much the weather will intervene.

These two sides last met in the Championship in 2021, Gloucestershire winning both encounters, the Middlesex batting failing on each occasion. However, the batting has been up to the task this season and the recruitment of Leus du Plooy to strengthen the middle order has been a successful one.

Meanwhile it was Gloucestershire’s batters that faltered in Hove and they will be given a stiff work out this week. The return of the Dukes ball benefited the strong Middlesex seam attack, dismissing a Yorkshire side which included Joe Root, Harry Brook, Shan Masood and Adam Lyth for just 159. The medium pace of Ryan Higgins was a particular beneficiary, taking 4/31. The quartet of Higgins, Ethan Bamber, Toby Roland-Jones and Tom Helm has played all three of the games so far and it seems likely at least Roland-Jones might be rested. Henry Brookes played in the first game, but has since been replaced by Steve Eskinazi and Blake Cullen has also been in the squads for previous matches.

Most of the batters have scored runs and Nathan Fernandes’ century against Northamptonshire, standing in for Sam Robson at the top of the order was a bonus for coach, Richard Johnson. Robson fractured the tip of his thumb in the field during the first game and will come back in if fit.

Gloucestershire’s batting struggled last season and perhaps suffered in the last game from a lack of match practice. Their first game at Derby was washed out, although they did reach 405/6 in their second innings against the strong Yorkshire attack, thanks mainly to 147 from Ollie Price and a century from James Bracey. They have brought in Cameron Bancroft at the top of the order, although the Australian has not enjoyed huge success in county cricket. Chris Dent missed the Sussex game having suffered a back injury against Yorkshire, so Ben Charlesworth moved up to open and made a useful 62 in the first innings. Miles Hammond was their top run scorer in the Championship last season and James Bracey seems to have started scoring runs.

Marchant De Lange was rested last week and will presumably return. He and Ajeet Singh Dale are two of the quicker bowlers in the second division. Tom Price came in for his first game of the season, but went wicketless. One positive from the match at Hove was the return to form of Zafar Gohar. Five wickets in the Sussex second innings gave Gloucestershire a glimmer of hope and that was alongside three in the first innings and two half centuries with the bat. If he is firing, then Gloucestershire are in with a shout.

The question is whether the weather will allow a positive conclusion to his game. Middlesex, on the back of their win over Yorkshire, will start as favourites, particularly if their batters can keep scoring runs.

Key players:

Miles Hammond has become the Mr Reliable of the Gloucestershire batting line up having scored 1648 runs in the Championship over the last two seasons. This is particularly impressive as the 28-year-old started his cricket life as an off spinner. A big first innings score will be important if they want to get anything out of this game.

Max Holden is becoming the regular number three for Middlesex and at 26-years-old will be keen to start repaying the faith the county have kept in him. He is a product of the Middlesex Academy and had the honour of captaining England at under 19 level. He currently averages 28.12 in first class cricket, having had a pretty good 2022 where he scored 749 runs at 39.42, sandwiched between two years where he had an average of 18.05 and 19.0. So far this season he has scored an undefeated double century and a half century and needs to start scoring big runs consistently.

Team News:

Matt Taylor has been sidelined by a toe injury. De Lange is expected to return.

Gloucestershire squad (from): Graeme van Buuren (c), Zaman Akhtar, Cameron Bancroft, James Bracey (wk), Ben Charlesworth, Ajeet Singh Dale, Marchant de Lange, Chris Dent, Zafar Gohar, Dom Goodman, Miles Hammond, Joe Phillips, Ollie Price, Tom Price, Josh Shaw

It is expected that Middlesex will want to rotate their seamers, particularly as they do not get a week off until round six.

Middlesex squad (from): Toby Roland-Jones (c), Ethan Bamber, Henry Brookes, Blake Cullen, Jack Davies (wk), Joshua de Caires, Leus du Plooy, Steve Eskinazi, Nathan Fernandes, Tom Helm, Ryan Higgins, Max Holden, Luke Hollman, Sam Robson, Mark Stoneman

Weather and Conditions

The current forecast is for showers throughout the match.

Given the damp conditions and the likely interruptions, the expectation is for the captain winning the toss to want to bowl first. The pitches in Bristol have been re-laid to encourage pace bowling with the hope that De Lange and Dale can take advantage.

Date: 26th April 2024

Time: 11:00

Ground: County Ground, Bristol


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