History

A brief history of Middlesex

Martin Williamson

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Formed 1864
First-class debut 1864
Admitted to Championship1890
County Championship 1903, 1920, 1921, 1947, 1949(Shared), 1976, 1977(Shared), 1980, 1982, 1985, 1990, 1993
Gillette/NatWest/C&G 1977, 1980, 1984, 1988
Benson & Hedges 1983, 1986
Sunday League 1992, 2004 (Div Two)
Twenty20 2008

Middlesex were formed in 1864 and their early history was dominated by the seven Walker brothers who filled most roles in the formative years, both on and off the pitch. Their involvement continued well into the 20th century, and when Plum Warner led the county to the Championship title in 1920, the club's president, RD Walker (along with three of his brothers) had played in first Middlesex match in 1864.

The club were successful on the field from the off, although it took them more than a decade of semi-nomadic existence before they settled at Lord's. And the lack of facilities put their future at risk when they played only six times in three years.

Being London-based meant that Middlesex were able to draw on some of the best amateur players of the time, but it also meant that they suffered from a lack of bowlers. The reliance on amateurs also made raising sides far from straightforward as their availability was sporadic. They were one of the founder members of the official Championship in 1890, and the arrival of Albert Trott from Australia gave the county a bowler of repute at last in the late 1890s. With JT Hearne and Warner also to the fore, Middlesex were title contenders, although they won the Championship just once (1903) before World War One, largely because the core of the side was still amateur. Trott also faded fast, a victim of drink and weight gain.

In 1920 Warner, in his final match, led Middlesex to victory over Surrey at Lord's and in so doing earned the county their second title thanks to a remarkable run-in of nine straight wins. Another followed the next year, and with Patsy Hendren scoring heavily and Young Jack Hearne leading the bowling, they were never out of the top six throughout the 20s.

The second half of the 1930s saw them finish second four seasons running, and Hendren gave way to Denis Compton and Bill Edrich while Gubby Allen was among the fastest bowlers in the land. The war robbed the side of its youth, but another second place in 1946 was the platform for one of the most remarkable summers of all in 1947. Compton scored 3816 runs and 18 hundreds, Edrich also topped 3000 while Sid Brown made and Jack Robertson score 11 hundreds. In front of packed houses and in one of the hottest summers of the century, Middlesex won the title, and shared another with Surrey in 1949. It seemed to herald an era of domination.

But that was to be their last success for 26 years. Compton's knee increasingly limited his contributions, and the side aged and suffered from a series of mediocre captains. Fred Titmus and John Murray emerged as players of talent, although Murray retired on the eve of the era of unprecedented success under Mike Brearley while Titmus, who had played aged 16 in 1949, retired on the back of the county's Championship victory in 1976. Remarkably, he made brief comebacks in two more Championship-winning summers in 1980 and 1982.

Brearley inherited a side seeped in under achievement in 1971 and mould edit into a team which dominated domestic cricket from the mid 1970s. Two cup finals in 1975 - both lost - heralded a decade which produced five Championships and five one-day trophies. With a pace attack of Wayne Daniel and Mike Selvey, two England spinners in Phil Edmonds and John Emburey, and a strong batting line-up including Clive Radley, Roland Butcher, Graham Barlow and Mike Gatting, the side had everything. In 1981 it was so strong that in the Championship they fielded an 11 made up entirely of internationals.

Brearley retired in 1982 after 12 years at the helm and Gatting then took charge for the next 15 years. Leading from the front, he built on the Brearley's legacy, and a new generation of players like Mark Ramprakash and Angus Fraser helped the county to more titles in 1990 and 1993. But the cracks were beginning to appear and by the end of the decade things were going badly wrong. Ramprakash jumped ship to join Surrey -a treacherous move in domestic cricket - and the county finished in the bottom three for four seasons on the trot as coaches and players came and went.

There was a revival of sorts but by 2006, despite some good talent such as Andrew Strauss, Ed Joyce, Ben Hutton and Nick Compton, the side was relegated to the second division in both first-class and one-day leagues. Rarely in living memory had things been so depressing, but young talent began to emerge and in 2008 they ended a 15-year drought without a major trophy by winning the Twenty20 Cup.

Martin Williamson is managing editor of Cricinfo

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Martin Williamson Executive editor Martin Williamson joined the Wisden website in its planning stages in 2001 after failing to make his millions in the internet boom when managing editor of Sportal. Before that he was in charge of Sky Sports Online and helped launch and run Sky News Online. With a preference for all things old (except his wife and children), he has recently confounded colleagues by displaying an uncharacteristic fondness for Twenty20 cricket. His enthusiasm for the game is sadly not matched by his ability, but he remains convinced that he might be a late developer and perseveres in the hope of an England call-up with his middle-order batting and non-spinning offbreaks. He is now managing editor of ESPN EMEA Digital Group as well as his Cricinfo responsibilities.
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