‘Batting with freedom is the key’

Scott Newman’s exclusive Middlesex CC column

It was great to get back to winning ways in the County Championship against Kent – that helps us keep tabs on Northamptonshire at the top of the table.

With 23 wickets going down on the first day, it was a strange game, but a good one. The lads bowled extra well and, if you bowl a side out for 87, you should be in charge.

The wicket did a lot and the overcast conditions helped the ball to swing a bit more, but we should have got further ahead on the first innings after getting to 50-odd without loss.

As it turned out, the lead we did have was crucial as the wicket started to flatten out and the last-wicket stand between Azhar Mahmood and Simon Cook in Kent’s second innings put some pressure on us.

I especially felt a bit of pressure, having dropped both of them early on, and I realised I had a personal responsibility to put it right, but thankfully Sam Robson and myself batted well enough – and scored quickly enough – for that to happen.

Generally, though, I haven’t scored as many runs as I’d have liked this year. I think the main reason for that is that I’ve probably been too tentative and not batted with the freedom I should have.

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I always play better when I have freedom – obviously with the power play in t20 you take more risks, but I try to bat positively in all forms of cricket. When I play well, I stand still and watch the ball, and I know I’ve been in two minds a lot of the time.

Whether it’s four-day cricket, Pro40 or t20, it all comes to the same thing with your batting. If you’re on 80-odd and you fancy a bowler, you might take him for 20 in an over – it just happens.

Obviously I’d like to be opening in t20 games, but I have to do whatever the management team ask me to do and I’m happy batting at one or two wickets down. Overall I think I’ve done all right so far.

With Chris Rogers injured, we were effectively 40-3 when I came in and that’s been our problem in t20 this season. We’re losing wickets at crucial times and not building partnerships.

We need someone out of the top three to bat for 15 overs – that’s what gets you big scores. If you look around the country, that’s how teams are doing it and we’re not.

Our only win in the competition so far was in the first game against Sussex, and the difference there was that two players at the top scored runs. If only one guy scores runs, you’re going to struggle – it needs two or three to get you over the line.

Anyway, we need to keep plugging away and try to pick up a win or two over the next few days. It’s been said before, but the t20 is all about momentum and, if we can improve our performances in the shorter form of the game, it can only help us when we get back to the Championship next week.