Middlesex star says squad is now strong enough to achieve cup success

John Simpson believes Middlesex finally have the resources to challenge for one-day honours as they prepare to launch their 50-over campaign this weekend.

The Lord’s side, who have only once reached the knockout stages of any limited-overs competition since their Twenty20 triumph in 2008, begin their Royal London One-Day Cup programme against Warwickshire on Sunday.

And wicketkeeper Simpson, who made his Middlesex debut the season after their last cup success, feels the team are now better equipped to bid for glory than in previous years.

“It is disappointing that we haven’t been able to win a trophy in white-ball cricket,” said Simpson. “As a kid growing up you want to play in finals and win competitions.

“There’s no place more special to do that than Lord’s, particularly as a Middlesex player. It’d be a massive achievement and something to strive for.

“I’m not going to pull any punches – at times we just haven’t been good enough to win competitions, or even to compete for finals or semi-finals, but in the last two or three years we’ve built a squad that’s capable.

“I think it’s now good enough to really compete and potentially win the tournament. We’ve got a lot of good batsmen and that includes people like Eoin Morgan, who should be available for the whole competition.

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“We’ve also learned a hell of a lot from last year. The guys have more experience now to deal with the pressure that comes when you’re on the kind of losing streak we’ve had in T20.”

Middlesex’s opening fixture at Lord’s, starting at 10.30am, is a repeat of their first home game in last year’s 50-over tournament, when they lost to Warwickshire by just four runs.

That result set the tone for the rest of the 2014 campaign as Middlesex won just three matches and finished seventh in the nine-team group, while the Bears went on to reach the final, where they lost to Durham.

Starting slowly has been a recurrent theme of Middlesex’s limited-overs campaigns during recent seasons, in both a 40-over and 50-over format, but the squad have at least had more time to prepare this week.

After sitting out the latest round of County Championship fixtures, Middlesex are back in action on Thursday when they face Surrey at Lord’s in the NatWest T20 Blast, and they then finish their South group schedule the following day against Somerset at Taunton.

“The T20 has been frustrating again this year, but Surrey is still a big game for us,” added Simpson, who recently signed a new two-year deal to stay at Middlesex.

“It’s a local derby, a chance for us to end their hopes in the competition as well – and also a perfect opportunity to work on our white-ball skills and put things into practice ahead of the 50-over competition.

“The schedule can be pretty hectic, so it should help us that we haven’t had a championship game – we’ve been able to focus on our white-ball game all week.

“Warwickshire is a tough start, but one that we should look forward to – we played them early on last year and probably should have won the game, but we ended up short.

“If we can get off to a good start against them, we can build momentum in this competition. In recent years, we’ve usually lost the first game and ended up chasing, so it’d be nice to start off with a win.”

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