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Cricket: Middlesex set to begin crucial period in County Championship Division One title defence at home to Somerset

PUBLISHED: 14:00 01 June 2017

Paul Stirling will hope to be back in batting action for Middlesex against Somerset (pic: Jed Leicester/PA Images)

Paul Stirling will hope to be back in batting action for Middlesex against Somerset (pic: Jed Leicester/PA Images)

PA Archive/PA Images

Defending champions face five matches in five weeks that could define season

Five matches in the next five weeks sees Middlesex’s bid to retain their Specsavers County Championship title begin in earnest.

“At the end of this month or so the Division One table should have taken shape,” said Angus Fraser, the Middlesex managing director of cricket.

“It’s an important part of the season for everyone,” added Fraser. “We’ve had a bit of a slow start, in some ways, and especially in that we have only played three championship games so far whereas other sides have already played five.

“But, in other ways, we’ve done OK. We hung in well to get a good draw at Hampshire in our first match, we would have beaten Essex in the next match but for the weather, and then we were the dominant side throughout against Surrey.

“Since that game we’ve had a week or so off, and many of the players have gone away for a short break. But we’ve been back in training for the last few days so we are ready to go again – starting against Somerset tomorrow.”

Opener Sam Robson is still recovering from a hamstring injury and misses out against Somerset, at Lord’s, but the 27-year-old former England Test batsman should be fit again for the visit to Southport, to play Lancashire, on June 9-12. Matches against Yorkshire (home), Essex and Warwickshire (both away) then follow to complete the busy championship run.

With Eoin Morgan captaining England in the Champions Trophy and both Steven Finn and Dawid Malan playing for England Lions against South Africa A, the depth of Middlesex’s squad is again being tested.

Paul Stirling and Tim Murtagh return from Ireland duties, however, and Fraser added: “We’re likely to have some Lions absentees too when we play Yorkshire in a fortnight or so’s time, but that’s why you have a squad and that’s what happens when you are successful as a club.”

Lord’s, meanwhile, is becoming something of a fortress for Middlesex – they are unbeaten there in the championship since 2014, a sequence of fifteen matches in which they have won six and drawn nine. Middlesex are also unbeaten against Somerset for six championship games, with two wins and four draws.

Middlesex’s likely 12-man squad for the match against Somerset, at Lord’s, is: Nick Gubbins, Nick Compton, Stevie Eskinazi, Paul Stirling, Adam Voges, John Simpson, James Franklin (captain), Toby Roland-Jones, Ollie Rayner, Tom Helm, Tim Murtagh, Harry Podmore.

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