A chaotic period of cricket for Middlesex CCC begins this week with our visit to Durham. After nine matches of this year’s County Championship season we currently lie well positioned in 5th place with games in hand over some of those above us. Without being too greedy our position could have been even better. Had we won our final LV=CC match before the Friends Life t20 cricket started, which we would have done but for poor weather, we would currently be sitting proudly in joint 1st position at the top of LV=CC Division One.
That we have made the start we have in Division One has been extremely encouraging and satisfying. We have played some excellent red ball cricket this season, showing the characteristics I want to see in a Middlesex team. The first thing a good side are is difficult to beat and, with the exception of our opening fixture against Somerset, we are proving to be this. Indeed, it was the confidence gained by two strong fourth innings batting displays against Nottinghamshire and Lancashire, performances that resulted in us finishing these matches as the stronger side, which allowed us to play as we did against Sussex and Somerset.
It was also reassuring to see the trait remain in the team after the break for T20 cricket. To come back strongly against Nottinghamshire for a second time, this time at Uxbridge, was a great effort.
That we enter the second half of the LV=CC season looking up rather than down is pleasing but Middlesex supporters can rest assured that we are not getting carried away with what we have so far achieved. We know that what has taken place is only a start and we hope to build on it over the coming weeks.
The two teams above Middlesex in Division One are Warwickshire and Nottinghamshire. We are finished with Nottinghamshire this season but have two matches against Warwickshire so; ultimately, where we finish in the table is in our hands. An issue for every side is once again getting used to red ball cricket and the different attitudes that exist. In T20 cricket it is almost a crime for a batsman to leave the ball yet in red ball cricket it is a skill. It is therefore inevitable that batsmen go feeling for deliveries that they should and have previously left alone. It doesn’t help when you are playing on pitches similar to those encountered in mid April.
Once again we have played some very good CB40 cricket too, and but for poor umpiring we would be in a strong position to qualify for the semi-finals. Even so we are still up there pushing for qualification. It is a bit of a quandary that we can fairly consistently play good CB40 cricket yet struggle in T20. As I write we have two CB40 games left and if we win both, which we are perfectly capable of doing, we may yet reach the semis.
If we don’t we will look back at the Lancashire game at Old Trafford and say what if. Yes, Eoin Morgan’s non arrival was a major setback and I take full responsibility for that. I was aware certain players were travelling up on the morning of the game and did nothing to prevent it. I should have. A lesson has been learnt.
Even so the game should not have been completed. When you get Sky commentators texting you to sympathise on the injustice that has taken place you know you have come out on the wrong side of poor decision making. I was not in Manchester but everyone I spoke to has said the game should have been abandoned as conditions were not fit or fair. Sadly, as the side bowling second we were the ones who were dealt a dreadful hand.
A big challenge for every side over the past few weeks has been maintaining team momentum and intensity. The problem is, of course, the weather. It is hard to feel motivated when on every day you turn up to play cricket the covers are on the pitch, the forecast is dreadful and all you are doing is wondering how much play you will get in before the next band of rain comes in. It is very depressing. In these situations it is hard to gain focus because there is nothing tangible to aim for on the horizon. It is inevitable then, that teams occasionally drift. The challenge for us is to overcome these obstacles to ensure we remain focused on what we could possibly achieve. This season could yet have a very special finish to it for us.
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