*Blog initially posted on my Tumblr*
In 2016, just 3 years ago, I legged it from work one Friday afternoon [losing my wallet in the process] to watch Middlesex win the County Championship, Division One.
But for Middlesex – the wheels have fallen off since then.
Middlesex are rock bottom of the division two table.
We have just recovered, in rather epic fashion against Derbyshire, who scored 557/6 declared in one-and-a-half days, with two of their batsmen getting tons, while others scored 96, 99 and 92.
Thanks to a supreme Dawid Malan 199, the game ended in a draw. But at the end of Day two, when I began writing, it certainly felt very familiar. Teetering on the brink.
But in many ways, that Malan rearguard sums up Middlesex at the moment. Very much down, but with glimpses of hope.
How we have got to this stage is quite tough to unpick
I’ll begin with the sense of impending doom at the beginning of the season, when I made the decision not to renew my membership.
Membership isn’t cheap. £265. I looked at the fixtures list, and Lord’s championship games’ starting days didn’t fill me with hope.
There was 2 games starting on each a Monday and on Tuesday, with no playing days on the weekend.
No games starting on a Wednesday, one on a Thursday, meaning potentially 2 days and no games starting on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
In other words, membership would be worthless as I could literally have gone to maximum two days (and I wouldn’t have gone two days in a row, anyway).
Even when the club changed it, so that two fixtures were to start on a Sunday, it was hardly a hook to get me in.
While this was disappointing, I am fully aware this has been a World Cup and Ashes year, and I’d hope these fixtures are changed for next year, so all hope isn’t lost, quite yet.
In the T20 last year, they packed out Lord’s each week, but lost 12/14 games, with poor tactics and average overseas players in Ashton Agar and Dwayne Bravo.
The T20 blast hasn’t begun yet but given the fact they had a good run in the Royal London One Day Cup, coming second in the South Group, it would be fair to say things are looking up.
It helped that they showed more ambition, bringing in Ross Taylor for the RLODC, and signing of Ab de Villiers for the shortest form.
Last year, Middlesex finished fourth, with more wins than the team above us. Yet in 14 games, we had just 4 tons, and the top batsman averaged just 35.
This year, we may be bottom, but Middlesex has already got 6 tons, including three from David Malan.
There is Test match experience at the top, with Paul Stirling, Sam Robson, Malan, and when he returns from ODI duty; Eoin Morgan, too.
Although we’ve won just 1 out of 8 Championship games so far, we’ve also had 5 draws, owing in part to the weather.
Middlesex has only lost one game, and Durham, who are two places above Middlesex, have lost double the number of games.
With just 10 points between Middlesex and Worcestershire in sixth, there’s no reason to give up this season, quite yet; especially with in form batsmen.
All-in-All, there is a lot to worry about, but also in both the short and long term, scope for realistic improvement.
Perhaps I’m a hopeless optimist, but while the county is clearly not in the best shape – it’s no time to hit the panic button.
There is potential to climb up the table, and build a new squad for next year with some of the older players moving on.
While Middlesex must do better in the second half of the season – the direction for the future in the longer term is positive.