Tim Murtagh plays down talk of Middlesex title challenge

Tim Murtagh insists it is far too soon to talk up Middlesex’s title credentials despite their status as early pace-setters in the County Championship.

Murtagh ripped through the Derbyshire batting with figures of 5-12 last week as Middlesex rolled over their opponents for just 60 at Lord’s to post their second straight victory.

That nine-wicket success, which came inside three days, followed the county’s 10-wicket triumph over Nottinghamshire in their opening game and put them at the head of the fledgling Division One table.

But Murtagh stresses that nobody at Middlesex – who must now wait until May 2 to continue their league campaign against his former county, their cross-town rivals Surrey – is getting carried away.

“Two wins from the first two games is great to get us up and going, but there’s an old cliché that you don’t win championships in April,” said the 32-year-old seamer.

“I remember Surrey winning their first game last year and a lot of people were predicting they’d win the championship, yet they nearly went down. So we definitely won’t be getting ahead of ourselves.

“We’re just quietly confident in going about our business and the good thing is that we’re playing well as a team. Everyone seems to be chipping in and contributing, which is a massive plus.

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“We’d like to take the momentum straight into the next game, but that’s just the way things have panned out and I’m sure the guys will be ready to go again for the Surrey game.”

Murtagh was ably supported against Derbyshire by England pace bowler Steven Finn, who took six wickets in the course of the match and will be available again to face Surrey.

Fellow seamer Toby Roland-Jones blew away the Derbyshire tail with a memorable hat-trick in the second innings, while Gareth Berg bowled economically without gaining his reward in terms of wickets.

Sharp slip catching was also a factor in Middlesex’s ruthless demolition of Derbyshire and Murtagh says the quality of close-range fielding is a big boost to the county’s battery of pace bowlers.

“Ollie Rayner’s an outstanding slipper, so are Dawid [Malan] and Robbo [Sam Robson], and Simmo’s [John Simpson’s] wicketkeeping has come on massively in the last 18 months or so,” added Murtagh.

“We feel we’ve got quite a safe cordon there and when we do create chances, we feel that most of the time those will get gobbled up. That helps big time.

“We’ve got healthy competition at the club for the bowling spots and, with [James] Harris coming back for the next game, there’s a good selection dilemma for the management.

“We spur each other on, bowl well in partnerships and always want to outdo each other. That’s been our forte for the last couple of years and we want to carry on doing that.”