Middlesex expected to bow out of the Royal London One-day Cup
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A lack of match-winning contributions from batsmen has blighted Middlesex’s latest Royal London One-day Cup campaign according to James Franklin.
Barring a miraculous series of results in Wednesday’s final round of South Group matches, Angus Fraser’s side will bow out ahead of the knockout stages – a phase of the tournament they have yet to see in the five years since its inception.
Three of their four defeats to date have been when batting first and falling short of a par score.
Those games produced 22 individual scores in double figures, but nothing higher than Paul Stirling’s 67 against Surrey at Lord’s – a costly set of stats in the view of former New Zealand Test man Franklin.
“In a nutshell it boils down to lacking competitive totals with the bat,” he said. “We’ve had plenty of batsmen getting starts but in games we’ve lost we’ve lacked a match-defining innings.
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“I’m not sure we have been a batsman light. I think there has been enough batting depth in the team but no-one has got that 80-odd you need.
“If you take the Surrey game Ben Foakes got 86 for them and that was the difference. Stirlo I think got 67 and that’s okay if you’ve got a fifty and a forty to go with it, if not it needs to be 80-plus.”
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Stirling emerges as the one batsman to escape all-rounder Franklin’s brutally honest scrutiny of the top six.
The Irish international’s 388 runs – including two centuries as well as his 67 – puts him sixth in the tournament standings.
Franklin has been impressed by Stirling’s greater maturity compared to past seasons, which he feels should serve well a man still to reach the peak of his batting prowess.
“Paul Stirling has been absolutely phenomenal,” he said.
“In a couple of early games, he will probably reflect he made good contributions but could have batted deeper into the innings, but since then he has taken it upon himself to change down a gear when the situation has demanded and assume responsibility.
“He is a great talent coming into his best four or five years as a batsman, so it is exciting to see him maturing in this way.”
Stirling aside, Franklin cited Middlesex’s spin twins Ravi Patel and Nathan Sowter as further successes amid disappointment.
Left-armer Patel’s 15 victims leave him second behind Lancashire’s Matthew Parkinson in terms of wickets taken, while ‘leggie’ Sowter’s eight scalps at an economy rate of just 4.62 mean he too stands out in his debut season in the format.
“Ravi is in double-digits and it’s such a positive to have someone taking wickets in those middle overs,” Franklin added.
“And Nathan has really come on over the last couple of games with the ball as well as giving us a wag in the tail with the bat.
“It’s encouraging for years to come to have that leg-spin option, which is so rare these days, and that aggressive style of batting.”
After concluding their Royal London campaign against Gloucestershire in Bristol, Middlesex have a high-profile tour match against Australia at Lord’s on Saturday – the tourists’ last game before the start of the one-day series against Eoin Morgan’s England.
They then have more than a week to prepare for the return to red-ball cricket, with a Specsavers County Championship match at Leicester starting on June 23 – for which Dawid Malan has been made available by the England management.