Middlesex paceman targets New Zealand team-mate in Essex clash

Middlesex’s new signing Kyle Mills is relishing a battle against fellow Kiwi Hamish Rutherford when the Panthers lock horns with Essex Eagles at Lord’s on Thursday night.

Mills was a last-minute addition to the Panthers squad for their Friends Life t20 campaign and featured in their first two group matches, against Kent and Sussex.

Now the Essex clash (6.10pm start) brings the 34-year-old seamer into direct competition with Rutherford, his New Zealand team-mate who is a key figure in the visitors’ batting line-up.

Rutherford’s star has been firmly in the ascendancy since his Test debut against England earlier this year – and Mills regards the batsman’s scalp as a key priority for the Panthers.

“He’s going to be a big wicket for us,” Mills told london24.com. “I’ve definitely got some ideas about where I think I’ll bowl to him and I’ll be passing those on to the rest of the bowlers within the group.

“It always adds another challenge to the challenge, I guess, when you come up against a team with a fellow New Zealander in it, so hopefully it’ll be a nice little battle taking place.

“If you’d asked me 12 months ago I wouldn’t have known a thing about him! But he scored a lot of runs and when he got his opportunity for the New Zealand side he did exceptionally well.

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“He’s carried that form over here and showed what he can do at The Oval last week, batting well against a very good English attack.

“Sussex proved to be a polished unit – from my understanding they’re always a pretty strong team in this division – but hopefully we can learn from that experience and keep moving forward.”

Despite the Panthers’ 24-run defeat by Sussex Sharks on Sunday, Mills – who has represented his country in 19 Tests and 153 one-day internationals – is thoroughly delighted to be sampling county cricket for the first time in his 15-year career.

“I’d signed a few years ago with Gloucestershire, but then I got picked up in the IPL,” he recalled. “I’ve always been keen to come over here and try my hand on the county circuit.

“I guess I’m getting towards the end of my career, so the time definitely felt right to give it a crack. I was over here, involved in the Champions Trophy, and Gus [Fraser] and the Middlesex coaching staff asked me if I’d be keen to join for the t20 competition.

“The idea of coming to play for a team like Middlesex was pretty exciting. Lord’s is a special place that’s so rich in history, it reeks of tradition, and every time the New Zealand guys come over on tour, they all want to play there.

“When you walk through the hallways and changing rooms, you see the names of all the great players who have shown their skills on the Lord’s turf. It’s a nice feeling to know you’ve played on the same wicket.”

So far, the New Zealand paceman has been charged with bowling the ‘death’ overs, a role the Panthers have arguably struggled to fill since the success of Dirk Nannes when they won the Twenty20 Cup five years ago.

Mills is happy to take on that task, adding: “My role is to bowl two overs up front, try and get the ball swinging and pick up an early wicket, and then my next responsibility is at the death.

“That’s how they want to use me and I’ve done it many times in my career. I’ve been reasonably happy with the way I’ve bowled so far.”

After the Essex clash, Middlesex head to Uxbridge to meet Kent Spitfires on Sunday (2.30pm) before hosting Warwickshire in a County Championship fixture at the same venue, starting on Monday.