Fraser urges Middlesex to stay focussed on promotion

Angus Fraser believes Middlesex can steal a march on some of their rivals for promotion from Division Two of the County Championship after crushing Kent by nine wickets in slightly controversial circumstances at Lord’s.

A pitch panel was called in to the game’s headquarters after 23 wickets fell on the opening day, and the match would have been completed inside two days but for rain arriving in the final session.

Middlesex managing director of cricket Fraser agreed that the surface at the start of the game was “difficult” but said there were mitigating circumstances for the pitch being too green on day one when Kent were bundled out for 87 and Middlesex followed for 153.

“We had a lot of rain here in the lead-up to the game, so the covers were on a lot and that contributed to the greenness of the surface,” said Fraser. “But I would also suggest that the fact that we were playing a Twenty20 match in Canterbury on the evening before this game began was hardly ideal.

“The Kent players did not get to their London hotel that night until 1.30am on Sunday morning, and suddenly they had to bat first on a surface that was nipping around little more than 12 hours after finishing a Twenty20.

“This is a great ground, with excellent cricket pitches that generally gives both batsmen and bowlers a chance to do well. No one enjoys seeing 23 wickets fall on a first day, but I’ve seen many pitches here do something early on for the bowlers and then flatten out and that’s what we have seen in this game.

“The important thing for us is that we have won another game which, last year, I’m not sure if we would have done and we stay on track for our main aim of this season which is promotion from Division Two of the Championship.

“This win puts us second behind Northants, who have also won in this round of games, but we have to play them twice yet and so a lot can still happen.

“We are also at home next week in the Championship, against Gloucestershire at Uxbridge, as we make up our game in hand on a lot of teams in the division, and so we have a great opportunity to push ahead of a few others in this part of the summer.

“It is not ideal – and that’s an understatement – playing so many Twenty20 games in with Championship fixtures, but we just have to concentrate on what we need to do and we have to manage our fast bowling resources in particular to keep everyone fresh.

“We are in the middle of a schedule which demanded that we play 14 days of cricket in 15 days, which is ridiculous.”

Rob Key, the Kent captain, confirmed that he had no issues with the pitch prepared at Lord’s. “It was right to get the panel in, but it was a surface which was getting better all the time and, unfortunately, we got caught on it first because we lost the toss,” said Key.

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