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May 13, 2010
Belief is the vital if intangible ingredient that, according to Middlesex director of cricket Angus Fraser, has helped turn around the club's disastrous start to the County Championship campaign.
Shaun Udal's side set an unenviable record by making the worst start in the county's history after losing their first four Division 2 games, yet they have responded with magnificent back-to-back wins over the previously unbeaten Sussex and an innings success over Derbyshire - the latter inside three days.
"We were slightly undercooked going into the season, which was nobody's fault, it's just that we had all six of our pre-season practice games washed out, so our first competitive match was against Worcester at Worcester.
"Then we set Northamptonshire 400 to win up at their place which they got, that was a real hammer-blow and since that the real problem has been a lack of belief.
"We struggled last year because we were in good positions and failed to finish sides off. This year we've been in reasonable positions but have faded out so, when Gareth Berg and Dawid Malan stood up for us with the bat at Hove, that for me was the moment when you could see our self-belief start to come back."
After compounding the form book Fraser's charges made further moves up the table with their trouncing of Derbyshire inspired by centuries from Berg and Neil Dexter and some fine seam bowling from Tim Murtagh, Ian O'Brien, Berg and in particular Steve Finn.
"I've been talking to Steffan Jones during the Derbyshire match and he feels we have the best bowling attack in the division if not the country, and I think he's right, but they need to keep believing that they can win games for us.
"At the start of the season you look at how you're going to win games and felt that seven wins would get us promoted and eight wins would get us the title. We noted that Kent and Durham, the title-winning sides last year both had 30-plus potential match-winning performances i.e.; five-fors or hundreds, so that's what we've set out our stall for.
Even though we lost our first four games we'd notched up seven, which told me individuals were performing well but that we lacked belief as a side. Now we have six or seven contributing and with young Steven leading the way with the ball, it all makes a huge difference."
Mark Pennell is the managing director of freelance reporting and public relations agency Kent & Sussex SportFeeds: Mark Pennell
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