Middlesex wicketkeeper aims to move up the batting order long-term
John Simpson sees his long-term future as a top-order batsman following his recent promotion to no 4 in Middlesex’s limited-overs line-up.
With regular batsmen such as Eoin Morgan, Dawid Malan and Joe Burns absent for Middlesex’s last two NatWest T20 Blast fixtures, Simpson volunteered to move up the order.
The left-hander flourished in that role, hitting a T20 career-best knock of 75 against Gloucestershire before a more controlled innings of 35 in their subsequent game against Hampshire.
Although Morgan’s return from international duty is likely to nudge him down the order again when Middlesex face Somerset on Friday at Uxbridge, Simpson is keen to take on greater responsibility in the future.
“I’m a senior player now and, with the injuries to Burnsy and Mala, it was time for me to put my hand up and take on that role,” said Simpson.
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“I’ve played a lot of cricket and I’m glad to repay the faith shown in me by the management. It’s something I thrive on, having responsibility, and it’s great to go out there and play my game.
“I enjoy playing that role and, if I can keep playing the way I am and scoring runs at a good rate, I’ll try and stay at the no 4 position.
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“Morgy’s coming back next game, so I might slide back down the order – that’s just how it is. But it’s definitely something I’d like to do further down the track.
“At the moment I’m just trying to help as much as I can. It’s a pretty frenetic game and you rely a lot on the keeper with angles and fielding positions, talking to the bowlers and trying to assess the pace of the wicket.”
Now in his seventh season with the county, Simpson is Middlesex’s undisputed first-choice wicketkeeper in all forms of the game, having seen off the challenge of Adam Rossington a couple of years ago.
At one stage Rossington – now with Northamptonshire – appeared to be regarded as the better batting prospect in one-day cricket, but Simpson has dispelled any doubts as to his credentials and versatility with the bat.
“I think in all forms of the game you have to be flexible and play different roles at different times – that’s the key to batting,” added the 26-year-old.
“In the Gloucestershire game I had to take the initiative and get as much strike as I could and hit boundaries, but then against Hampshire Stirlo [Paul Stirling] played some fantastic shots with great finesse.
“He struck the ball beautifully and there was a different role for me to play. If the ball was there to be hit, I’d hit it and otherwise it was a case of trying to get him back on strike.”
Middlesex’s prospects of reaching the knockout stages of the T20 Blast are looking remote after a run of four straight defeats that has left them propping up the South Group table alongside Surrey.
However, they should be boosted by the inclusions of Morgan and left-arm spinner Ravi Patel, who returns after injury against Somerset (5.30pm).
And Simpson believes Middlesex are not too far away from rediscovering the winning habit, pointing out: “We’ve been competitive in every game we’ve played.
“It’s just been those little things – an over here, an over there – when we’ve lost control and let sides get away, especially with the bat, and it’s been difficult to claw it back.
“Our batting’s been pretty good throughout the competition – we’ve just struggled a bit with the ball. We’re fractions off and, especially in this game, fractions make a huge difference.“