2008 County Preview - Middlesex
Middlesex begin their second season in Division Two of the County Championship after relegation in 2006. The club secured promotion to the top division of the Pro 40 league by way of a play off with Division One side Northamptonshire. Middlesex made use of the first ever playoff between the third bottom Division One club and the third top Division Two club to gain entry back into the league they were relegated from the year before.
Once again Middlesex find themselves in a very competitive Southern group for both the Friends Provident Trophy and the Twenty20 cup, last year falling at the first hurdle finishing fourth from bottom and second from bottom respectfully.
In previous years Middlesex have struggled when important players such as Andrew Strauss, Owais Shah, Ed Joyce and Jamie Dalrymple have been called up to play for the country. However the county maybe seeing a lot more from the likes of Strauss and Joyce who have suffered from the fateful tour down under in 2007. Shah continues to impress the selectors and regularly holds down a place within the England squad and
more recently within the starting line up, whilst talented all-rounder Dalrymple has left to join Welsh outfit Glamorgan during the winter. The club has struggled in the batting department since Mark Ramprakash’s departure to Surrey in 2001 and will hope that Strauss readjusts quickly to county cricket providing some solidity to the top of the order.
The club has a lot of youth in the first team squad this year and one or two will hope to make a name for themselves over the coming season.
Middlesex have announced the signing of exciting Australia prospect Ashley Noffke during the close season. The pace bowler, who features mainly in Twenty20 cricket for his country, will be filling in for spinner Murali Kartik whilst he is on tour with India during the early part of the season. Middlesex fans would have hoped for Sri Lankan pace bowler Chaminda Vaas to return to Lords for the 2008 season, however with the number of overseas players being restricted from two to one that will not happen now.
Former England spinner Shaun Udal comes out of retirement to accept a two year deal to play for the Crusaders and the club will be hoping the twin spin attack of Udal and Kartik will work to their favour, also hoping Tim Murtagh can recapture the form that saw him take the most wickets (21) in Division Two of the Pro 40 going at just 12 a piece. There have also been several changes to the backroom staff with Greame West taking over from Toby Radford who becomes new first team coach.
In: Ashley Noffke, Friedel De Wet,
Shaun Udal, Gareth Berg
Out: Chris Wright, Richard Johnson,
Ben Hutton, Chris Whelan, Jamie Dalrymple,
County Championship Division Two: 5th
Pro40 Division One: Relegated
Friends Provident Trophy: Group Stage
Twenty20 Cup: Group Stage
Star Man: Andrew Strauss
Top Tip: Tim Murtagh
By Richard Reardon