Middlesex reap the benefits from batsman’s new role in Royal London Cup

Middlesex batsman Nick Gubbins is optimistic that his recent move down the order will make him a better player in the long term.

The young left-hander began the season as Sam Robson’s opening partner in the County Championship and regularly featured in the No 3 slot during Middlesex’s NatWest T20 Blast campaign.

But Gubbins enjoyed the new role he was handed at the start of the Royal London 50-over Cup competition, batting at six and adapting well before moving back up the order.

The 21-year-old struck his first senior half-century in one-day cricket as he top-scored with 56 in Middlesex’s victory over Kent at Radlett – and was also a stand-out performer in his side’s next two games, passing three figures for the first time as he smashed 141 from 113 balls in a nail-biting three-run win over Sussex and then hitting 96 in Wednesday’s defeat to Essex at Colchester.

Gubbins expressed his gratitude to one-day captain Eoin Morgan and the Middlesex management for giving him a licence to express himself at the crease.

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“I’m fairly inexperienced in this competition, so it’s great to be given a vote of confidence from Morgy and the coaching staff,” said Gubbins. “We’ve got an international batting line-up ahead of me, so to be given that is massive. I’ve been told to play my game and look to hit boundaries at the end of the innings.

“Batting at six is very new for me and it’s very exciting because it’s a new challenge in my career and it can only improve my game, I reckon. I’m going to continue to play positively and play the situation.

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“I feel I’ve made good progress in all forms of the game, which is important for me and, despite having a big squad at Middlesex, they’ve given me a go and backed me to the full.

“So I can thank the club and the coaching staff for giving me a go – at the end of the day it’s up to me to perform. I know when I go out there to bat I’ve got their full backing to play the shots I want to play.”

Gubbins, who first appeared in the first XI in the County Championship last summer and struck a half-century on debut, has impressed again this year.

And the youngster is quick to credit former Zimbabwe captain David Houghton, who joined the Lord’s side as batting coach at the start of the season, for his continuing progress.

“Houghts is an absolute legend,” Gubbins declared. “He might need a shoulder replacement at this rate, because he sidearms us pretty much every day!

“He was a world-class international batsman back in his day and he’s passed that experience back to us. He really simplifies the game and adapts each person’s game to their strengths.

“For me that’s hitting straight and my pull shots. He’s very honest, basically. He’ll tell me when I mess up and don’t do the right thing and I love working with him.”

Amidst the relentless 50-over programme – which continues on Thursday when Middlesex return to Lord’s to face Nottinghamshire (10.30am) – there is also a four-day fixture against Sussex, starting on the following day at the same venue.

Middlesex are currently joint third in the Division One table and, while they trail leaders Yorkshire by 38 points, Gubbins feels an outside shot at the title remains realistic.

“We’ve still got to play Yorkshire and it’ll be at Lord’s, where we’re very dangerous,” he added. “So a big win there and who knows? There’s a lot of cricket to be played yet this season.

“We’re one of the form sides, I reckon, with a star-studded batting line-up and a fantastic seam attack, so I don’t see why we can’t be challenging at the end of the season.”

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