County previews April 2, 2013

Middlesex rejuvenated under Fraser

Last year: 3rd, CC Div 1; Group stage, FLt20; 2nd in Group A, CB40.

2012 in a nutshell: Third in the Championship constituted a very decent year after promotion. Perhaps only a lack of consistency cost them an even higher finish, with four losses including a 15-run defeat against Durham when set only 118 to win and an eight-run defeat against Surrey when set 254. The seam bowling - led by Toby Roland-Jones and supported by Tim Murtagh, Gareth Berg and Steven Finn - was very good, but the spin bowling - Ollie Rayner, with 15 wickets in 10 games, was the leading wicket-taker - and the batting were weaker. Of those who played regularly, only Chris Rogers averaged more than 35, with Neil Dexter, Dawid Malan and Jo Denly struggling for consistency. Eoin Morgan, when he was available, also proved a great disappointment, averaging 18.16 in the Championship. They struggled for runs from their wicketkeeper, too, with John Simpson and Adam Rossington failing to make a Championship half-century between them. They might consider themselves unfortunate to miss out in the CB40 - they finished second in their group - but started poorly, with early losses against Gloucestershire and Worcestershire and then suffered the abandonment of two potentially-winnable games. They lost four of their first five T20 games and never looked likely to challenge.

2013 prospects: Any team with a seam attack including James Harris, Toby Roland-Jones, Tim Murtagh, Corey Collymore and, perhaps, Steven Finn, have to be contenders. Some doubts remain about the batting and spin bowling in the longer format, but it is hoped that the appointment of Mark Ramprakash as batting coach will help Dexter, Denly, Malan and co find the consistency to complement their quality. Stirling, who is not part of the Championship side, and Morgan are largely underutilised, too. They will require more runs from their wicketkeeper, whoever it might be. Middlesex could be dangerous in the shorter formats, too, particularly when Stirling and Morgan are available. They remain in the market for a second overseas player in FLt20, with a batting allrounder the ideal candidate. There is some concern that Australia's chaos could bring an unforeseen call for either of their overseas players: Chris Rogers or Adam Voges. Their T20 record - they have reached the knockout stages once in seven years - is a disappointment, but they seem to have the personnel to do better. Off the pitch, Middlesex have invested around £750,000 in their facilities away from Lord's, at both Radlett and in Finchley.

Key player: Such was the desire within the county game to sign James Harris that, upon his departure from Glamorgan, he held discussions with every Division One county and the top three in Division Two. Middlesex won a very competitive race to sign him and, as a consequence, have a highly-skilled, highly-motivated seamer who, if he stays fit, should prove a regular matchwinner.

Bright young thing: Ravi Patel is a 21-year-old left-arm spin bowler in the mould of Murali Kartik who could make the spin bowling position his own in 2013. He broke into the team at the end of end of the 2012 season and claimed eight wickets in the match in an innings defeat of Lancashire. He chose shortly before the season to abandon his degree at Loughborough in order to concentrate full time on cricket and has been rewarded with a two-year contract.

Captain/coach: Neil Dexter remains the club captain and will lead the side in limited-overs cricket, but Chris Rogers remains the captain of the County Championship side. Angus Fraser, the director of cricket, inherited a club lacking direction and has, relatively quickly, helped fashion a team with an exciting future. Richard Scott remains head coach.

ESPNcricinfo verdict: The issues with the batting and, perhaps the spin bowling, may mean this is a year early to expect a sustained Championship challenge, but that seam attack will always give them a chance. While their neighbours across the river hog the headlines, it is Middlesex who look better placed for the next few years.

Read our supporters' network preview on Middlesex. ESPNcricinfo will be publishing a fan blog for each of the 18 counties as we build up to the 2013 season

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on April 3, 2013, 13:18 GMT

    Would certainly not want to see Keiswetter at Middlesex. Simpson had a tough year in 2012 but he showed what he can do with the bat in 2011. Good hands as well. Roland -Jones and Harris are formidable young pace bowlers.

  • Dummy4 on April 3, 2013, 9:54 GMT

    The caption 'Neil Dexter retains the leadership of Middlesex's championship side' is a bit incorrect

  • Dummy4 on April 3, 2013, 9:38 GMT

    I hope this young chap Patel isn't too much in the mould of Kartik.

  • Dummy4 on April 3, 2013, 8:13 GMT

    The caption and the text don't tally.

  • Dummy4 on April 2, 2013, 18:22 GMT

    Kieswetter joining Middlesex over Somerset...not a chance that will happen.. he is very loyal to his county. so keep your hands off Okay!!

  • Mark on April 2, 2013, 17:59 GMT

    To makes a Championship challenge Middlesex need:

    1.) To learn to score 400 more frequently. The batting has been uneliable for too long now.


    2.) They need an attacking spinner. People close to he side think that it may be Ravi Patel, but he has to sustain his early success over a full season. If he can, Middlesex will finally have an atack for all conditions.

    Sadly, Ollie Rayner ended up playing in the side almost as a batsman who could bowl a bit, which was as much a statement of the inadequacies of the top 6 as it was of his own ability.

    Too many players like Morgan, Malan and Dexter are struggling to covert early promise into consistent batting success. I just wonder how long the side can continue at carry batsmen who are struggling to average 30 in a season. I also wonder if all three will still be at Lords next year...

  • Graem on April 2, 2013, 17:38 GMT

    To think that Middlesex got rid of Ben Scott for lack of runs. I wonder what the chances are of seeing Kieswetter in a Middlesex shirt before the season is over.

  • Ohhhh on April 2, 2013, 17:12 GMT

    Roland-Jones has to be a Lions pick for this Summer. The stand-out county bowler at present and could be the long-term replacement for Tremlett!