Where? Lords, North London
Outs: Andrew Balbirine (Released), Max Holden (Northants, Loan)
Key Man: Toby Roland-Jones
2016 season: Championship: Winners, RLODC: Group stage, T20 Blast Q/f
2017 odds: Championship 18/5, RLODC: 14/1, T20: 12/1
Let me take you back to 23rd September, all eyes were on Lords, not to mention particularly keen interest in Leeds and Taunton, three teams dreaming of Championship glory going into the final day of the season. With the stakes so high, 21,000 of the Middlesex faithful (not to mention a loyal group from Yorkshire) made their way through the famous entrances at Lords over the four days. After a contrived deceleration and 9 wickets following some superb bowling, Toby Roland-Jones beats Ryan Sidebottom’s defences to secure Middlesex’s first Championship since 1993. After such a roller coaster of emotions that only cricket can provide, no one can begrudge the celebrations that followed.
This season will be an all together different challenge for James Franklin’s men, no longer able to sneak under the radar, they will no doubt be the prize scalp. Middlesex start their season with a trip down the M3 to face Hampshire at the Ageas Bowl. It is largely as you were on the transfer front, with the return of the ever-reliable Adam Voges as the overseas player a welcome one; especially now the Australian has hung up his baggy green cap and committed himself for a whole summer in NW8. Key to success in the Championship this year will be if Nick Gubbins can repeat his superb batting performances from the top of the order, he can’t possibly beat an average of 61.25, can he? With the ball, aside from Toby Roland-Jones, look out for the highly rated fast bowler Tom Helm, if the 22-year old can keep himself fit I can see him blasting through many a batting order.
With the success of last year with the red ball, it is easy to forget that Middlesex successfully navigated their way through the T20 Blast South Group only to lose to eventual champions, the Northants Steelbacks in the quarter-final stage. Looking ahead to their white ball prospects, Middlesex should enjoy Eoin Morgan’s presence for the T20 Blast fixtures in July and August, after hopefully leading England to Champions Trophy glory in June. Add into the mix Paul Stirling and the return of Kiwi Brendon McCullum for the Blast to give catching practice to members in the glorious Lord’s pavilion and you have one exciting batting line up.
Where I think Middlesex will finish:
County Championship: 2nd
One-Day Cup: 5th (South Group)
T20 Blast: 4th (South Group)
Preview written by Harry Hill – You can follow him on Twitter @HarryHill96.