Shorter block of cup games suits Middlesex better, says batsman
Middlesex batsman Dawid Malan feels the county’s Twenty20 fortunes would improve if the tournament were streamlined over a shorter period of time.
The Lord’s side have only once qualified for the knockout stages since they won the tournament in 2008 and have finished bottom of their group for two years running.
Malan believes the disjointed nature of this year’s T20 group schedule – a total of 14 games spread across a period of nine weeks – did his side few favours.
By contrast, Middlesex’s Royal London 50-over Cup programme, which began this week, is squeezed into a three-week spell that includes only one County Championship fixture.
“I think the Twenty20 should be played in a block as well,” said the 27-year-old left-hander. “But unfortunately it’s not about what works for the players any more. It’s more about clubs getting the crowds in.
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“If you had Twenty20 in a block like this competition, you’d start getting better at it – because then you’re focused on just one thing.
“Of course having people missing through injury, or international games, is something every team has to deal with. But I think we used 22 players throughout the tournament, so that means you’re picking the first and the second XI.
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“You can’t expect to be consistent if you’re using so many players. When we had our full team, with the guys you want to pick, and we played to our potential, we put in good performances and won by big margins.
“I also think we’d have a better chance if we played on fresher wickets – you realise that when you see guys of Eoin Morgan’s quality finding it tough on a used wicket – but that’s how it is.”
Three of Middlesex’s four T20 victories came against teams who ultimately qualified for the quarter-finals – Kent, Sussex and Essex – while the other was a rare win over crosstown rivals Surrey at Lord’s last week.
John Simpson top scored with 53 as Middlesex rattled up 185-5 and the home side’s fielding was excellent in the Surrey reply, which fizzled out at 142-9 with Steven Finn and Neil Dexter taking three wickets apiece.
But bad weather the following day denied Middlesex the opportunity to avoid finishing last in the group as their final T20 game, against Somerset at Taunton, was washed out.
And rain intervened again on Sunday at Lord’s, ensuring that Middlesex had to share the points with Warwickshire in the opening game of their 50-over Group B campaign.
Having finally got under way with a two-wicket defeat by Lancashire in a low-scoring encounter at Blackpool, Middlesex now take on Kent at Radlett on Friday – only the second time the Hertfordshire club have staged a first XI fixture.
On their previous visit to Radlett, just over two years ago, Malan was Middlesex’s top scorer with 96 as they beat Yorkshire by six wickets in a 40-over contest.
“A lot of the games are being played at club grounds, which have a very different feel, but some of the places we play at are absolutely stunning – and Radlett is one of those,” added Malan.
“It’s picturesque and it’s pretty much our home from home – the club have invested in the facilities and hopefully we can carry on winning there.”
After the Radlett game (11.30am), Middlesex are on the road for their next three matches – Hampshire at Southampton on Saturday, Sussex at Hove on Monday and Essex at Colchester on Wednesday.