With their Cape Town training camp and three wins from as many pre-season friendlies behind them, newly-promoted Middlesex have every right to go into the new first-class season with confidence high.
After a winter of team consolidation that saw five players sign contact extensions and both Joe Denly and Ollie Rayner join the club, Middlesex and their captain Neil Dexter have enjoyed six months of stamina building and bonding and now feel ready for the challenges that a return to the top-flight will throw at them.
They kick-off their County Championship campaign on April 5 against last season’s serial bridesmaids Somerset. It will be the first time the clubs have met at Taunton in the Championship in five years, and neither captain will want a repeat of the outcome that year.
In April 2007 Middlesex, having elected to bat, posted an impressive 600 for four with hundreds from Owais Shah, Billy Godleman and David Nash, only for the hosts to hit back with a mammoth 850 for seven built around Justin Langer’s 315. Needless to say, the game ended in a tame draw.
Looking ahead to the visit to the West Country, Dexter said: “We look in really good shape and the spirit in the dressing room here right now is as good as I’ve known anywhere.
“We’ve strengthened the batting at the top of the order and have a great blend of youth and experience on the bowling front. Tim Murtagh and Corey Collymore may find wickets a little harder to come by this year than they did in Division Two with the Tiflex ball, but they’re both quality operators and will again want to lead us from the front.
“Added to which, we may see a little bit more of Steven Finn this season, Gareth Berg is injury-free for the first time in almost two years and Toby Roland-Jones continues to impress with his talent and is bound to press for a place.
“We may not have a big name spinner, but we have three young spinners all vying for a start, while Joe Denly and Dawid (Malan) can both chip in with some leg-spin. I feel we have good balance and a greater strength in depth now, which is what you’d want in a promoted side.”
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