Vitality County Championship Match Preview: Middlesex v Leicestershire

Vitality County Championship Match Preview: Middlesex v Leicestershire

Two of the Division Two pace setters meet at Lords.

Leicestershire would not be most people’s first choice to have been leading Division Two after four rounds, but on the back of some strong batting performances and four draws, they sit two points clear of Northamptonshire. Meanwhile, as was the case last summer, Middlesex have struggled to register batting bonus points, their two big innings scored at a slow rate. Nevertheless the five batting points is the same as they achieved in the whole of last season. Their third place in the table is the result of the win against Yorkshire and if we accept that promotion will require teams to take 20 wickets and win games, they have the bowlers to get them there.

Leicestershire were unfortunate not to be able to claim victory against Derbyshire in round three, when a double century from Marcus Harris helped them to 574/7 declared and they then forced Derbyshire to follow on. Rain washed out the final day with four wickets still needed. This will be the last game for Harris as well as for Ben Green, who has been on loan from Somerset.

Peter Hanscomb and Rishi Patel have put in steady performances with the bat and runs have come all down the order. Ben Mike has made an impact following his return from Yorkshire, but missed the last game because of injury. He has taken nine wickets in three games where the bat dominated and his injury, along with the continued absence of Chris Wright leaves the bowling attack blunted, despite the efforts of Tom Scriven and Scott Currie who have both been taking wickets. Rehan Ahmed returned for the Northamptonshire game and took two wickets as well as scoring 85 runs.

We keep saying it, but if the Middlesex batters can get some runs on the board, their bowlers can get the job done, particularly if there is some movement. Toby Roland-Jones will return after being rested for the last match and Tom Helm or Ethan Bamber could be rotated. Blake Cullen is back in second team action this week.

It is difficult to understand the lack of batting points given that three out of the top four runs scorers in Division Two so far this season are Middlesex players, but in each case half of their runs have come from one innings. Leus du Plooy has added solidity to the middle order alongside Ryan Higgins, but they will need to look at scoring their runs at a faster pace in order to make time to take the necessary wickets. Sam Robson injured his thumb in the first game, but could be back this week. No overseas player is anticipated, the club coffers having been emptied by the signing of du Plooy and Henry Brookes.

Middlesex would be expected to start as favourites, but there is a reason that Leicestershire are top of the table. They have a very long batting line up, although a number of the Leicestershire players will lack familiarity with the Lords’ slope. If the Middlesex seamers can repeat the performance they put in against Yorkshire they will likely prevail if the weather permits.

Key players:

Toby Roland-Jones was rested for the trip to Bristol last week, but will be back at Lords looking to lead his side to a second win. The 36-year-old is as familiar as anyone with what it takes to get the most out of the Lords surface and took six wickets in the win against Yorkshire. With 530 wickets from 147 first class matches at 25.17, he will be keen to improve on the 27 wickets he took last season. There is no doubt the younger seamers will have become better bowlers having played alongside him.

In the absence of Chris Wright, Tom Scriven has had to step up and so far this season the 25-year-old all-rounder has delivered. He has taken eight wickets in matches that have tended to be batter dominated and scored two half centuries coming in at nine or ten. Last season he took 39 wickets at an impressive 23.87 and he is approaching the important milestone for an all rounder where his batting average (currently 26.00) exceeds his bowling average (currently 28.03). He will surely be looking to move up the order to be able to build on his batting stats.

Team News:

Robson could return at the top of the order and Roland-Jones will come back in.

Middlesex squad (from): Toby Roland-Jones (c), Ethan Bamber, Henry Brookes, 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

Josh Hull came into the squad last week and he may be included as more of a wicket taking option.

Leicestershire squad (from): Lewis Hill (c), Rehan Ahmed, Sol Budinger, Ben Cox (wk), Scott Currie, Peter Handscomb, Marcus Harris, Josh Hull, Louis Kimber, Rishi Patel, Matt Salisbury, Tom Scriven, Liam Trevaskis, Sam Wood

Weather and Conditions

The current forecast is for showers throughout the match, with perhaps a better chance of play on days two and three.

Given what happened in the last game at Lords, both teams will be keen to bowl first. It is just a question of whether rain will have too big an impact.

Date: 3rd May 2024

Time: 11:00

Ground: Lords


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