Why Mitch McClenaghan is the key to Middlesex’s Twenty20 chances

Mitch McClenaghan (left) celebrates the wicket of Essex's Callum Taylor with team-mates Dawid Malan

Mitch McClenaghan (left) celebrates the wicket of Essex's Callum Taylor with team-mates Dawid Malan and John Simpson (right). Pic: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo - Credit: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo

It is unlikely anyone in the Middlesex camp will be getting caught up in a wave of unbridled optimism over their T20 prospects just yet.

Two wins from three games is of course a promising start to the NatWest T20 Blast – but let’s not forget that was exactly what the Lord’s tenants achieved a year ago.

What followed was a seven-match losing streak – including a dismal, eight-wicket defeat to Surrey at The Oval – as Middlesex slumped into familiar surroundings at the foot of the South group.

However, one of the brighter elements of that wretched campaign was the performance of Mitch McClenaghan, who took 3-24 on his debut against Sussex and bowled with a good level of consistency.

While his fellow New Zealander Brendon McCullum has drawn the bulk of the publicity as Middlesex’s star T20 signing this year, the early signs are that McClenaghan’s return might prove to be their real masterstroke.

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Fresh from the Indian Premier League, the left-arm seamer stepped off the plane and headed for Chelmsford, where his four-wicket haul helped Middlesex to seal a 17-run win over Essex.

McClenaghan brings a good deal that Middlesex’s bowling attack might otherwise be short on – experience, variety, control and of course wicket-taking ability.

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It is not dissimilar to the qualities displayed by another left-arm bowler, Dirk Nannes, the last time Middlesex were genuine competitors – well, winners actually – in this tournament.

The Kiwi star appears to be relishing his role in the squad as Middlesex prepare for back-to-back T20 fixtures against Sussex on Thursday evening and Surrey 24 hours later.

He said: “I’m looking forward to being around a young group of bowlers, some guys who have got a lot of skills and fantastic potential.

“Hopefully I can not only perform well for Middlesex, but also pass on some wisdom and help these guys develop into even better bowlers. It’s a really nice side.

“I think it’s going to be really exciting. We aren’t going to get ahead of ourselves – we know we’ve got to go out and play aggressively come what may.”

Aside from Toby Roland-Jones and James Franklin – who cannot really be viewed as a frontline bowler these days – Middlesex are largely reliant on less experienced seamers in this form of the game.

James Fuller is still settling into the Middlesex side after his switch from Gloucestershire, while Harry Podmore and spinner Nathan Sowter are in the formative stages of their careers.

As regards Middlesex’s batting line-up, McCullum’s credentials as one of the most destructive batsmen in limited-overs cricket, to say nothing of his box office appeal, are beyond question.

Yet, if he fails to fire, there are many others – Dawid Malan, Paul Stirling and Eoin Morgan, for instance – capable of taking on the mantle and playing a match-winning knock.

It looks as if it may be McClenaghan, rather than his compatriot, who holds the key to Middlesex’s chances of making genuine progress in this year’s competition.

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