Middlesex preview, 2006

Bowling lacks penetration

Rob Steen
Rob Steen provides a preview of Middlesex for the 2006 season

This Season




Championship Division 1
Nat League Division 1
Captain Ben Hutton
Coach John Emburey
Overseas Players
Scott Styris
Johann Louw
In
Mohammad Ali
Johann Louw
Chris Silverwood
Out
Nantie Hayward
Peter Trego
Paul Hutchison





Revolving door
The usual seamy exchanges - farewell Nantie Hayward and Paul Hutchison, come on down Chris Silverwood, Johann Louw and Mohammad Ali.

Winter wonderland
Steve Martin, groundsman at Southgate - where Middlesex swanned home chasing 400 against Glamorgan - won the 2005 Groundsman of the Year award in the ECB's `Outground' category. In courageous defiance of recent trends the playing staff has increased, to 22. The 2nd XI have been "assured" of more fixtures.

Strengths
Quite possibly the best top six on the circuit. In Eoin Morgan, Nick Compton and Billy Godleman, who topped 1,000 in last year's 2nd XI Championship at 65, they also have replacement sparkplugs to spare. Look for Ben Scott - good hands, gymnast's reach, nifty batter - to increase the pressure on Geraint Jones.

Weaknesses
Slow-developing spinners; absence of bone-threatening pace; short boundaries; unusually generous proportion of public schoolboys; unfamiliarity with being No. 1 in London.

Best-case scenario
Pro40 League title and first Championship pennant in more than a decade as a fully restored Chad Keegan plays a fullish part, Scott Styris picks up from where he left off and Chris Peploe and James Dalrymple impersonate Edmonds and Emburey. And the young Anglo-Asians that Toby Radford has reportedly been grooming number a budding Monty Panesar or two.

Worst-case scenario
Silverwood proves Yorkshire right; Keegan struggles; Alan Richardson buckles under the strain again; Peploe and Dalrymple impersonate Noel Edmonds and Dick Emery.



Emerald talent: Eoin Morgan is ready to follow in Ed Joyce's footsteps © Getty Images

Young one to watch
Eoin Morgan. Another Irish batsman, like Ed Joyce, injected with an overdose of talent.

Key man
Paul Weekes.

What they say
Openly disappointed that last season's Championship campaign was more about skirting trapdoors than tilting at crowns, coach John Emburey assured a members' forum that Louw (no quick or even quickish bowler bettered his 60 Division One wickets for Nothants in 2004) will add discipline and reliability to an attack noted mostly for generosity and brittleness. He also says the young spinners should be given more opportunities but what can you do when those inviting Lord's boundaries discourage selection? A word with the landlords might be in order.

Mark Wagh
Laden with batting talent, they should not find runs a problem. However, the need to bowl teams out consistently could prove more of an issue. New signings Louw, Mohammad Ali and Silverwood will provide depth in the seam department to support the tireless Richardson.

Predictions County Championship 7th (D1) Pro40 8th (D1)
Odds 10/1. Click here for full odds and to place your bet.