Former captain feels Middlesex are genuine contenders for County Championship title again
Former Middlesex skipper Mike Gatting believes his old club are close to ending their barren run of 20 years without a County Championship title.
Gatting was the last Middlesex captain to lift the trophy in 1993 – the third county title of his reign – and the Lord’s side have failed to sustain a genuine challenge for the summit ever since.
But last year’s third place was Middlesex’s best finish since Gatting hung up his batting gloves, and the current side kept themselves within striking distance of top spot with last week’s comprehensive 10-wicket win over Sussex.
That result stopped the rot after back-to-back defeats by league leaders Yorkshire and defending champions Warwickshire, and the former Test batsman feels a title bid is not yet out of the question.
“There’s a bit of consistency coming back and, just when you thought they’d got it cracked, there were a couple of slip-ups,” Gatting, now 56, told london24.com.
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“It’s a strong competition and you’ve got to be consistent. I suppose losing Chris Rogers [to Australia] hasn’t helped – he brought a bit of stability in there.
“But other people have to step up to the block and take on responsibility and if that happens, the ability’s there without a shadow of a doubt. They have got some very talented cricketers, they really have.
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“There’s the likes of Tim Murtagh, who I always think has been brilliant for Middlesex – he’s an old pro and he’s been absolutely top drawer.
“They’ve got some good young fast bowlers like Toby Roland-Jones, and it’s nice to see our off-spinner [Ravi] Patel back – he’s done well. I think they’re capable of doing it and let’s hope it happens – there’s still a bit of time left in the season.”
During Gatting’s playing career – long before the days of central contracts for England stars – the Middlesex side was frequently weakened by international call-ups.
As well as Gatting himself, spin duo John Emburey and Phil Edmonds, wicketkeeper Paul Downton, opening batsman Wilf Slack and paceman Norman Cowans were often away with England.
Younger players like Angus Fraser, Mark Ramprakash and Phil Tufnell were required to plug the gaps – and eventually gained England recognition themselves – but the county continued to perform well in both four-day and one-day cricket.
Under Gatting’s leadership, Middlesex won the Benson and Hedges Cup and NatWest Trophy twice each, along with their three league titles, the Refuge Assurance Cup and the 1992 Sunday League.
“Those young players really did stand up and be counted – they had the pride and desire to do that from ball one,” Gatting recalled.
“People had to come in and play and they knew that – and likewise when guys came back from Test matches, they knew they had to perform. If we wanted Middlesex to be a good team, that’s what had to happen.
“It’s no different now and it’s up to the individuals themselves to take responsibility. They’re playing for Middlesex, they’ve got a great ground to play at and they should be very proud of that.”