Simpson wants Middlesex to take smart approach to Vitality Blast
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Seaxes begin campaign at home to Surrey on Thursday
A smart rather than gung-ho approach will make a world of difference to Middlesex’s latest Vitality Blast campaign according to John Simpson.
The Seaxes begin their quest for only a second quarter-final spot in a decade against London rivals Surrey at Lord’s on Thursday — and received a major boost overnight with confirmation that Dawid Malan has been released from England’s T20 squad to lead the team.
Coach Daniel Vettori’s first season was characterised by an aggressive approach, but one which saw wicketkeeper Simpson and company edged out of the knockout stages.
Simpson believes a more measured strategy with bat and ball, coupled with other “One-percenters” can see them reach the business end of things.
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“The one-percenters are about playing smarter cricket, rather than being too gung-ho,” he said. “Teams who lose 4-5 wickets in the powerplay rarely win matches.
“Then it’s about cashing in on those half-chances or run-out opportunities and out-bowling the opposition at the death.”
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Simpson knows overseas recruits Dwayne Bravo and Ashton Agar will be key components – despite a delay before Agar’s arrival.
Former West Indies captain Bravo is a proven winner in the game’s shortest format, most recently in the 2018 IPL with Chennai Super Kings. The 34-year-old, one of only two men to win the ‘Purple Cap’ twice as IPL leading wicket-taker, is a renowned ‘death-bowler.’
“Dwayne will help massively with the death-bowling,” said Simpson. “He’s a serial T20 winner and alongside ‘Helmy’ (Tom Helm) should give us two strong guys to finish off.
“And with him around you can expect fireworks in the middle-order.”
Agar too has won the ‘Big Bash’ with Perth Scorchers, bowling his left-arm spin at a miserly rate and hitting his fair share of sixes. The 24-year-old’s debut will have to wait until Somerset’s visit to Lord’s later this month as he’s currently on international duty in Zimbabwe. Hilton Cartwright’s services have therefore been retained until after the Gloucestershire clash at Uxbridge on Sunday.
Simpson hinted the Aussie may be one of a plethora of spinners as Middlesex take pace off the ball – a strategy which worked well in the recent 50-over campaign.
“Ashton gives us options with both bat and ball,” said Simpson.
“I think you can expect lots of spin from us as we have plenty of slow-bowling options with Nathan (Sowter), Ravi (Patel), Stirlo (Stirling) and Mala (Malan).”
Simpson understands Vettori will deploy as settled a side as possible in which each individual will have assigned roles.
That said, he may prove the New Zealander’s joker in the pack as he moves up and down the order to accommodate international call-ups - no easy task for a man who readily admits he’s not been at the races with willow in hand this term.
Nevertheless the 29-year-old’s power hitting has proved pivotal in helping secure three T20 wins in a row at Lord’s over the men from south of the river.
“I pride myself on being able to adapt to whatever role I’m asked to play,” he said.
“I would imagine I will start in the middle-order and go back up the top in games when Dawid isn’t around.
“I hold my hands up to the fact my form with the bat this year has been nowhere near the standards I set for myself.
“But I think T20 games free you up to play yourself into form. If you are up the top you can play some good cricket shots and get value for them because the field is up, while if you are in the middle you can perhaps express yourself and play some funky stuff whether that’s a reverse-sweep, a scoop or whatever.”
The pressure is on with Middlesex Ladies having won their T20 championship after back-to-back wins over Warwickshire and Kent on Sunday.
Simpson admits CEO Richard Goatley has already sent a fun message or two reminding the men where the bar has been set and says banter from the girls is just a matter of time.
“We’ve not heard much from the girls yet, but I’m sure if they are kicking around at Lord’s when we are there they will be letting us know about it,” he added.
“Let’s hope we can emulate their achievement.”