Vitality County Championship Match Preview: Middlesex v Sussex

Vitality County Championship Match Preview: Middlesex v Sussex

The top two in Division Two meet at Lord’s

First meet second at Lord’s this week, both sides starting to establish their credentials. They both won last week, Sussex against fancied Yorkshire and Middlesex against another promotion hopeful, Glamorgan. The thing that sets these two sides apart from the other counties in Division Two is their bowling. Sussex have had Ollie Robinson alongside West Indian Jayden Seales, both bowling medium fast rather than the sub 80 mph speeds that predominate in county cricket. Unfortunately for Sussex Seales, who leads the wicket-taking in Division Two with 23 at 21.86, missed the last game with a groin strain and will be a doubt this week. Robinson has not played two consecutive weeks this season and it waits to be seen whether he will turn out at Lord’s. Clearly Sussex’s chances will suffer if one or both are absent.

Middlesex too have a number of talented seam bowlers at their disposal, the quickest being Tom Helm, who again bowls in the 80 to 85 mph range. His progress onto the international stage has been hampered by injury over the years, but his seven wickets in the win against Glamorgan showed what he is capable of. They have a depth in their options with Ethan Bamber currently leading their effort with 16 wickets at 35.18, Toby Roland-Jones, Ryan Higgins, Henry Brookes and Blake Cullen.

The spin threat comes from Jack Carson and James Coles in the Sussex ranks, Carson having made a good start to the season with 12 wickets at 29.00, although he was side lined in the Glamorgan game with a back problem. As a result, he did not take the field and then only needed to bowl seven overs in the last match. For Middlesex, Luke Hollman replaced Josh de Caires in the last game and had an immediate impact with his leg spin, taking five wickets.

Both sides have scored plenty of runs, although Sussex had a wobble against Glamorgan. Middlesex have three of the six top run scorers in Division Two in Ryan Higgins, Leus du Plooy and Max Holden, but Sussex have six more batting bonus points. The problem for Middlesex has been their speed of scoring runs, with a need to go at over four runs per over in order to achieve maximum points, while they have been scoring their first innings runs at just over 3.5 runs per over. However it is not a problem if you keep winning. Sussex’s leading run scorer is Tom Haines who has made his 380 runs at 79 per 100 balls and Sussex have been keener to chase down bonus points given the opportunity.

There have been three matches at Lords so far this season. The first, involving Glamorgan and the Kookaburra ball, was a run feast, while the second was a low scoring encounter in which Middlesex beat Yorkshire. The last game was severely rain affected and only two days’ play was possible. It waits to be seen how the pitch behaves this week, but a win for either side would be a huge boost to their promotion hopes as they go into the Blast.

Key players

Ryan Higgins continues to perform with both bat and ball for Middlesex. He headed the run scoring and was second in wicket-taking in 2023 and leads with the bat so far this season with 531 runs at 88.50, including two centuries. He has also taken 14 wickets at 29.85 with his brisk medium pace and he will be hoping for a bit of grass on the playing surface at Lords.

Sussex’s James Coles has made a steady start to the season having scored 348 runs at 43.50. In the first game he made 78 and took six wickets, but since then he has made plenty of starts, but not quite been able to convert any into a big score. 849 runs at 42.45 in last year’s Championship led to the 20-year-old going on the Lions tour last winter and he will be keen to get his name in the hat for higher honours, his left arm spin a useful addition to his skill mix.

Team news

Middlesex had a break during round five so their bowlers should be reasonably fresh. However they do have the luxury of being able to call upon Brookes and Cullen should any need to be rested.

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

Seales may still be sidelined, while if Robinson plays it will be the first time he has turned out two weeks in succession. The positive is that Yorkshire only batted for a total 113.3 overs last week, Robinson bowling 32.3 overs.

Sussex squad (from): John Simpson (c, wk), Tom Alsop, Jack Carson, Oli Carter, Tom Clark, James Coles, Tom Haines, Fynn Hudson-Prentice, Aristides Karvelas, Danny Lamb, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ollie Robinson, Jayden Seales

Weather and Conditions

The current forecast is for a dry first two days with some rain on day three and four.

Middlesex have won the toss and fielded first in each of the three games played at Lords this year. That was not necessarily the best choice with the Kookaburra ball in round one, but we would expect the same policy this week.

Date: 24th May 2024

Time: 11:00

Ground: Lords, London


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