Twenty20 revives Malan
The queues build on a warm summer evening in St John's wood, milling outside the station and eager to get down to the ground. Fans are scrambling for their tickets, not for a final, not for a Lord's Test, but for a midweek game of Friends Life T20 between Middlesex and Essex. Who says that domestic cricket isn't very popular?
The night before we played Essex, I made a very wise decision, so it turned out, to purchase tickets online. It was wise because when I turned up to Lords at 5pm to collect the tickets for a 6pm start, I heard numerous people walking back to the station. Some were not too happy, mumbling 'they have sold out, but it's on TV so we can go to the pub.' Luckily, I had three tickets in my back pocket, a few bottles of cider, and a pair of sunglasses which were a must on this bright and hot summer evening, and enthusiastically anticipating a strong performance against a rather strong Essex side.
We did not disappoint either, showing reciprocity towards the crowd's warm buzzing welcome by winning comfortably and impressively, and winning two more times out of five games so far too. Bearing in mind seven out of 10 games were lost last year, this is a big improvement already, and Middlesex are second top, on course to challenge for finals day advancement hopefully.
The estimated 20,000 plus people witnessed the win, and in particular the continuation of remarkable form for Dawid Malan. Since being dropped from the Championship side, the attacking left hander has sent a very strong signal that he doesn't like to be dropped, and deserves his place back. The talented left hander has now hit 86 and 61 in two of the five FLt20, and was in rich form in the YB40 with 431 runs in seven innings including four scores of 50 plus, which contained match a winning 99 and 96. He seems to have really refocused.
In an Ashes summer, watching Malan smash arguably the quickest bowler on the planet, Australian Shaun Tait, over extra cover for six into the grand stand, was especially sweet, and topped off his innings of 86 off 55. Just a few days earlier he had struck 61 versus Sussex although in a losing cause, and a number of days later 31 not out off just 20 balls in the most recent victory against Kent. Malan will be hoping to break back into the Championship side and transfer the form of course.
Despite us being perched at second in the FLt20, we are still languishing at fourth in the County Championship and YB40 which has a feeling of mid-table mediocrity. With a number of senior players out due to injury and the Ashes summer, it isn't going to be easy to improve the situation and elevate our game in all three competitions. We are thus hoping for some reinforcements to help the war effort as it were
So far, reinforcements have taken a leaf out of Malan's book, and especially young wicketkeeper-batsmen Adam Rossington and spinner Ravi Patel, have had an impact. They have seen that performing in limited-overs cricket when the cameras are out gets attention, as they were both named in the Championship squad versus Warwickshire.
Rossington looks a mature batsman, and very tidy behind the stumps too. Getting down to flick Ravi Bopara to fine leg for four after facing just one ball in order to hit the winning runs versus Essex was a nice moment, but it was his chance up the order versus Kent which really showcased his quality.
His 74 came off just 37 balls in a breathtaking knock that stole the match. After hitting his first first-class century this year, he will undoubtedly be pushing for more cricket as a batsman or a keeper-batsman. Potentially, Middlesex could use him to open or bat at No. 3 depending on where Joe Denly bats. But there is a certain sign that he is moving up from the 2nd XI and towards the first team.
Meanwhile, Patel was selected versus Warwickshire, showing Middlesex's depth and younger talent that is creating competition for places in the absence of senior players. After a strong debut against Essex in which he took 1 for 17, keeping the runs down against a side with power hitters like Graham Napier, Bopara and Hamish Rutherford amongst others, he was even more impressive against arch rivals Surrey. He 4 for 18 including the scalp of Ricky Ponting.
Middlesex's t20 campaign has really given us a lot of momentum, but also a lot to think about in terms of run scoring, particularly for Malan. He was dropped, he went away and scored 2nd XI and one-day runs, and is surely ready again. Middlesex need him to continue to fire, in addition to these younger talents when called upon if we are to continue their strong form in months to come across all formats.
Jack Mendel writes about cricket on the Sideline Agenda and runs his own blog, Stumpycricket. He tweets here