Cricket: Middlesex graduates give reason to cheer
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Amid an underwhelming season at Middlesex one man at least can allow himself a quiet smile of satisfaction.
The big picture goals were missed – promotion back to the County Championship’s top tier never really looked within reach and interest in both white-ball competitions ended before the knockout stages.
But former academy director, now second XI coach, Alan Coleman can reflect on the fact five members of last week’s winning team against Derbyshire – Nick Gubbins, Max Holden, Robbie White, Martin Andersson and Ethan Bamber – are all graduates from Middlesex’s youth system.
He is reluctant to claim the credit, wanting the individuals to enjoy their hard-earned time in the spotlight.
“By and large the season has been a tricky one for the first team, but in recent weeks the five players mentioned have been getting opportunities along with Tom Lace (batsman on loan with Derbyshire) having his chance at Derbyshire,” he said.
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“It’s richly deserved by all of them. They’ve all earned their opportunities as it’s a tough first team to get into no matter what our performances have been like.
“We’ve got some high-quality, world-class players, so for these boys to get an opportunity and then step up and perform has been brilliant to see.”
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Gubbins is well established and all but a shoo-in for the England Lions’ trip to the UAE to face Pakistan in November, despite a difficult summer.
Holden may join him, particularly after making his maiden hundred for the county in the win over Derbyshire under the watchful eye of the Lions’ head coach Andy Flower.
The other three members of Coleman’s quintet have really emerged this year, with seamer Bamber making a big impression since his first XI debut against Northamptonshire last month.
The Exeter University theology student has 23 wickets at a shade under 20, reward for a bustling action and nagging accuracy reminiscent of former England quick Matthew Hoggard.
“I can see the comparisons with Hoggard,” said Coleman.
“It’s the way he bustles into the wicket and he’ll run in all day. He bowled 52 overs or something like that in the game at Bristol and was running in as hard in the last of those as in the first.
“First-team cricket doesn’t seem to faze Ethan. He is level-headed, mature beyond his years and a fascinating character in terms of his interests and the way he approaches his game.
“He has taken the opportunity presented to him and just walked out there like he belongs really.
“The great thing is everything he’s done in the U17s, U19s and the second XI, he’s simply transferred straight away to first-team cricket, by which I mean he’s bowled a lot of balls which the batter has to play a forward defensive shot to.
“And if you are as relentlessly accurate as he is and has been, you are going to create opportunities for yourself.”
Meanwhile, White’s glovework has marked him out as a viable option behind the stumps and Andersson too has shown promise.
The latter took 4-25 on his Championship debut while on loan to Derbyshire before injuries in the Middlesex squad led to his recall from the Midlands.
Ironically, the 22-year-old then made an entertaining 23 not out in poor light in just his second appearance for the Seaxes against Derbyshire at Lord’s last week – an innings which both hastened the home side’s declaration and underlined his potential with willow in hand.
“We have high hopes for Martin as an all-rounder,” Coleman added.
“He showed in the second team against the two best bowling attacks what he can do. We played a Glamorgan first XI attack in T20 cricket and a strong Hampshire line-up as well and he got hundreds in both those games.”
All five Middlesex graduates were named in the 14-man squad for the final County Championship match of the season at Durham, which marks the retirement of former England all-rounder Paul Collingwood whose first-class debut came in 1995 – before all but Gubbins had even been born.