Middlesex’s South African star aims to sign off in style against Hampshire

Kyle Abbott is warning his former Hampshire team-mates to watch out for a Middlesex backlash when they visit Lord’s in the NatWest T20 Blast on Thursday night.

The South African paceman – who helped Hampshire to reach the last four of the competition last season – is making his final appearance in a Middlesex shirt before he heads off on international duty.

Although the visitors are well-placed to qualify again from the South group – while Middlesex languish in eighth place following Sunday’s 43-run defeat to Gloucestershire – Abbott is aiming to go out on a high.

“Hampshire have been playing some good cricket and their short format of the game is pretty sound, so it’ll be a good challenge for us,” said Abbott

“But beware the wounded! We’ve lost three on the bounce now, so they should be more worried about us because we’re bound to have a good one again.

“Hampshire sum up conditions pretty quickly, especially their spinners. Danny Briggs is a big player for them and so now is Will Smith, bowling in the powerplay.

“Their ability to close down an end or a couple of overs in the middle means that suddenly you’re rushed through. Obviously they also have a strong batting line-up as well, with some experienced heads, and it all comes together.

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“They play incredibly well at home – but I was chatting to Danny Briggs the other day and it’s interesting that he hasn’t played at Lord’s before. We’re the home side and maybe we can take advantage of that.”

Abbott acknowledged that he and his fellow bowlers put in a below-par performance against Gloucestershire, who hammered them around the Richmond ground to rack up 214-4, their highest T20 total so far in this year’s tournament.

Ian Cockbain, who struck 75 off 39 balls, led the way for the visitors, who then dismissed Middlesex for 171 in reply, despite a courageous career-best T20 innings of 74 from John Simpson.

“I didn’t feel our intensity was there, which was understandable in that the guys have had a long couple of weeks,” Abbott reflected. “But we need to pitch up for these sort of games.

“I don’t think we were particularly good with the ball, myself included. I bowled four dot balls and a single in an over at the end of the powerplay, then I dropped one short and went for four.

“Those sort of things add up – you do it five or six times and suddenly there are 20 runs where there shouldn’t be. They should probably never have got to 200.

“I felt Cockbain was allowed to get off to a decent start and we could have been tighter and squeezed a bit more, especially when the new batsmen came in.”

Despite Middlesex’s recent slump in form, Abbott – who turns 28 today – has found his brief stint in a pink shirt thoroughly enjoyable, with the five-wicket haul he claimed against Sussex Sharks the clear highlight.

The fast bowler’s figures of 5-14 at Hove last month were the second best ever claimed by a Middlesex bowler in T20 cricket.

He added: “It was nice to take them all in about six balls or so! It’s tough to get wickets in Twenty20, but that’s the job we’ve got as bowlers and I feel it’s gone all right.

“If I’m not taking wickets I want to make sure I’m not going everywhere, so I was pretty happy with our game at Glamorgan as well, keeping it tidy and bowling four overs for about 20.

“To come into a new team environment, with different leaders, is always interesting, and it’s been great to learn off guys like Eoin Morgan, Steven Finn and Frankie [James Franklin], who have played a lot of international cricket.”

After the Hampshire clash (6.15pm), Middlesex return to County Championship action on Sunday when they take on Worcestershire at the start of the Uxbridge Festival.

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