Specsavers County Championship: Division 1 (2017 performance – 7th)
Royal London One-Day Cup: South Group (2017 performance – 8th)
Vitality Blast: South Group (2017 performance – 7th)
Captain: Dawid Malan
Coach / Director of Cricket: Richard Scott/Angus Fraser
Overseas Players: Ashton Agar (Vitality Blast), Hilton Cartwright
Ins and Outs: In: None. Out: Ryan Higgins (to Gloucestershire), Harry Podmore (to Kent).
Man on a Mission
Nick Gubbins. After bursting onto the scene in Middlesex’s title-winning campaign of 2016, when he amassed over 1,400 first-class runs, Nick Gubbins endured a lean spell last season which ended with a hamstring injury.
The young left-hander’s England Lions call-up last winter brought little respite, but two impressive centuries in the recent South v North series fuelled hopes that he has turned the corner – and although he missed the third game with a fresh hamstring injury, he is making good progress towards an early return.
Gubbins remains on England’s radar as a potential long-term successor to Alastair Cook, giving him every incentive to plunder bowling attacks in Division Two during the coming season.
One to Watch
Tom Barber. Left-arm pace bowlers are a rare sight on the county scene – and, given Middlesex’s wealth of seam options, eyebrows may have been raised when the county offered Tom Barber a contract.
Released by Hampshire, the 22-year-old caught the eye in Minor Counties cricket with Dorset and did enough in two T20 appearances for Middlesex last season to earn himself a permanent deal.
Although still raw, Barber undeniably possesses genuine pace – as has already been recognised by the England set-up following his inclusion in the ECB Pace Programme this winter. He now has the chance to prosper further under the tutelage of Middlesex’s bowling coach Richard Johnson.
Toby Roland-Jones wrote his name into Middlesex folklore in 2016 with his unforgettable hat-trick against Yorkshire to seal the Seaxes’ first County Championship title in 23 years.
That moment highlighted Roland-Jones’ progression from first-change line and length exponent to strike bowler – and deservedly ushered him into the England frame.
Although injury denied him a place on the Australia tour, the Ashford-born seamer remains a strong candidate to feature in Test cricket again this summer.
However, in a season where forcing wins is of even greater importance, the Middlesex faithful can rely on Roland-Jones to lead the hunt for wickets.
Prospects for 2018
Smarting from their controversial relegation last season, Middlesex’s immediate focus will be on regaining County Championship Division One status at the first attempt.
In addition to that self-imposed pressure, Angus Fraser’s men are saddled with the burden of being the bookies’ favourites for promotion.
With 10 wins required to achieve that feat last season, Middlesex’s prospects of success will hinge on taking 20 wickets on a regular basis.
On paper, their bowling resources are sufficiently strong – with the likes of Tim Murtagh, Toby Roland-Jones, Steven Finn and Tom Helm all capable of match-winning stints.
However, Middlesex may need a fresher, more aggressive style of leadership, epitomised by the appointment of Dawid Malan – who oversaw a strong T20 campaign as skipper two years ago – as captain for all formats.
Although Malan’s availability may be restricted by England commitments, Middlesex have ample cover in the batting department.
Eoin Morgan has signalled his desire to resume red-ball cricket after a three-year hiatus – only to suffer a broken thumb facing Barber in the nets - while former England Under-19 captain Max Holden is also pushing hard for a spot.
Middlesex’s chances are strengthened by the fact that Lord’s will stage all their home four-day fixtures this season.
The arrival of Australian all-rounder Ashton Agar should boost the county’s prospects of an improved showing in white-ball cricket – where reaching the knockout stages would represent progress.
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