Middlesex star McLaren ready for t20 showdown with former club Kent

Ryan McLaren will have no room for sentiment when he returns to Canterbury for the first time in Saturday’s t20 clash with Kent Spitfires.

The Middlesex Panthers all-rounder spent three seasons at Canterbury, playing a major role in the Spitfires’ t20 success of 2007, but has not been back since he left the club two years ago.

Now he hopes to mastermind a Middlesex win over his former county as the Panthers, having broken their duck against Sussex Sharks, attempt to pick up the pace in their t20 campaign.

“That Kent team was a really well-balanced side, with experienced cricketers like Yasir Arafat and Azhar Mahmood and people like Robert Key up front. It was a special team to be part of,” McLaren recalled.

“I’m fortunate to have some fantastic memories of playing at Canterbury, but now the focus is on Middlesex and what I can contribute both on the field and off it.

“It’s a massive honour to play for Middlesex and I’m looking forward to doing battle with Kent on the field and then having a few drinks with some of their players afterwards.

“The way t20 cricket is played around the world, there are no easy games and I think Kent will certainly be involved again this year, with the experience they have in their batting order.

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“There are a lot of guys there capable of scoring runs and they’ve also brought in Charl Langeveldt and Wahab Riaz, who are good bowlers at the death.”

The 28-year-old South African, who also featured for the Spitfires when they lost the 2008 t20 final to Middlesex, spent the recent Indian Premier League season with Kings XI Punjab.

That enabled McLaren to play alongside Australian legend Adam Gilchrist – who played as one of the Panthers’ two overseas stars in last year’s t20 and ended up as captain following Shaun Udal’s resignation.

And McLaren is keen to emulate Gilchrist by making a lasting impact during his spell at Lord’s, which will stretch for as long as the Panthers remain in t20 contention.

“I was fortunate enough to play with Adam Gilchrist in the IPL, I’m sure he would have left a legacy behind here and it’s important to try and do that,” added McLaren.

“I’ve been made to feel very welcome here and obviously you have to perform yourself but, if you can add a bit of advice to younger players as well, that makes a difference.

“It is a young group at the moment. Unfortunately we’ve lost a few players, with Eoin Morgan in the England side and Dawid Malan and Gareth Berg injured, and it’s not easy to replace those players.

“But it’s good experience for the younger guys – the thing is, you’re playing t20 every second or third day and it’s important to get flexibility in your squad and have a lot of options available.

“You have to think on your feet because it can change so quickly – two or three balls can alter the whole context of the game. Hopefully that’s where a bit of experience can come in.”

The Panthers first take on Sussex in the return match at Lord’s tonight, starting at 6.15pm, before travelling to Canterbury for the Spitfires clash on Saturday (7pm).

They meet Kent again the next day as the focus briefly switches back to County Championship action, with the Division Two encounter at Lord’s due to finish on Wednesday.