Middlesex – County Championship preview

Jon Batham from ECB Reporters Network looks forward to the new season at Lord’s

Lord’s Cricket Ground – Photo by the blowup on Unsplash

Captain: Toby Roland-Jones

Head Coach: Richard Johnson

2022 finish: Second (Division Two)

2022 highest runscorer: John Simpson (1,039)

2022 highest wicket taker: Toby Roland-Jones (67)

Key winter moves: Continuity was Middlesex’s main objective in the wake of promotion, with Stephen Eskinazi, Tom Helm and spin duo Luke Hollman and Thilan Walallawita all agreeing new deals. The county are yet to announce a replacement for overseas signing Keshav Maharaj, with the left-arm spinner’s stint at Lord’s cancelled after his freak Achilles injury while playing for South Africa.

The big question: How smoothly will Middlesex adapt to life back in Division One for the first time since 2017? The good news is that the majority of the squad – which still includes five members of their 2016 title-winning team – possess top-flight experience.

What we’re looking forward to seeing: With stalwart seamer Tim Murtagh taking up a player-coach role, there should be increased opportunities for younger bowlers like Ethan Bamber to step up and spearhead the attack alongside Toby Roland-Jones. Blake Cullen, who missed most of last season through injury, and Max Harris also look like candidates for greater red-ball exposure this summer.

Player to watch: Luke Hollman. Having originally made the breakthrough as a white-ball specialist, the homegrown leg-spinning all-rounder nailed down a regular place in the four-day side that secured promotion last season. Maharaj’s injury may well open the door even wider for the 22-year-old, who supplements his leg-breaks with valuable runs in the lower-middle order.

Final thought: With three of their first four fixtures at Lord’s, Middlesex must aim to hit the ground running on their return to the top level. Former Test openers Sam Robson and Mark Stoneman provide a solid platform for an experienced batting line-up, while the bowlers will need to find new ways of taking 20 wickets without the guarantee of Murtagh trundling in from the Nursery End.

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