Middlesex can still qualify in T20 Blast, says Australian star
- Credit: Archant
Stand-in skipper Dan Christian has not given up hope of reaching the T20 Blast quarter-finals even after Middlesex Panthers stumbled to a fourth straight defeat.
The Panthers remain without a point in this year’s South group after their five-wicket loss to Gloucestershire was followed by another reverse, by 47 runs against Hampshire at Merchant Taylors’ School.
Yet Christian, who led the side in both those matches with Eoin Morgan away on England duty, is still optimistic that Middlesex can turn their fortunes around.
The Australian all-rounder – who helped Hampshire to the national T20 title in 2010 – is expected to captain the Panthers again in their next group match, a derby clash with Surrey at The Oval on Friday evening.
“We’ve played some good cricket in patches – we just haven’t done it all at once,” said Christian. “There are still 10 games to go and hopefully we can turn it around.
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“I’ve played enough Twenty20 to know that it’s very much a momentum game. Once you do get on a bit of a roll it can be really easy to continue with that.
“My side back home, Brisbane Heat, lost the first four games a couple of years ago in the Big Bash, but we won our last four and got into fourth spot, then won the semi-final and the final – so I know it’s possible to do.
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“If you get a couple of guys in form at the top of the order they can just blow games out of the water and the rest of your team jumps on the back of that.
“Hopefully that’s not far away for us. We’re really keen to turn things around and draw on some of the momentum from the team’s form in the County Championship.
“Friday should be a great night, with a big crowd in there, and no doubt the boys will all be up for it – a big game against Surrey that can spark things off for us.”
The Panthers never really got going against Hampshire last weekend after they put the visitors into bat and could not prevent James Vince (68) and Jimmy Adams (38) from racking up an opening stand of 108.
Both batsmen eventually fell to Ravi Patel – again the home side’s most economical bowler with figures of 2-23 – but an unbeaten 49 from former Middlesex batsman Owais Shah enabled Hampshire to post 198-2.
Paul Stirling cracked 40 off 21 balls as he and Dawid Malan (23) made a bright start to the Panthers’ run chase with a stand of 56, but wickets soon began to fall at regular intervals.
Joe Denly (33) was the only other batsman to pass 20 and the contest was effectively over long before the home side’s innings closed at 151-9.
Despite the Panthers’ losing streak, Christian has found his temporary spell in charge a pleasurable experience, albeit an unexpected one.
“It was a bit of a surprise, I didn’t know I was going to do it,” admitted the 31-year-old.
“But I’ve enjoyed being captain in the last couple of games, even though we’ve been beaten pretty comprehensively.
“I’ve done it a little bit for South Australia a couple of years ago and it’s a nice feeling to be out there thinking ahead and working out what needs to be done.
“They’re a good bunch of guys, really easy to work with and they’ve been playing some good Championship cricket so there’s clearly plenty of ability and confidence there.
“It’s just a case of getting it together in this format. Personally my form hasn’t been all that great but, as I’ve said, I know things can turn around quickly in Twenty20.
“All around the world, people are getting better at Twenty20 cricket and every year you learn more about what works and what doesn’t. There’s no margin for error and it’s a good challenge to try and be as consistent as you can.”
After their T20 Blast match at The Oval, Middlesex return to County Championship action on Sunday when they travel to face defending champions Durham.