MIDDLESEX PREPARE FOR DOUBLE AMBITION
CONSISTENCY THE WATCHWORD SAYS WICKETKEEPER
MIDDLESEX must excel in two ‘Cs’ if they are to repeat their County Championship success of last year, according to John Simpson.
The tenants of Lord’s begin the quest for their first back-to-back title wins for 40 years when they travel to The Ageas Bowl to face Hampshire on Friday.
It’s far from impossible as Sussex, Durham and Yorkshire have all achieved the feat this century.
Wicketkeeper Simpson says the recipe for success involves replicat- ing the two things which have characterised their cricket in recent seasons – character and consistency.
Not many years ago, character was considered the missing link in a Middlesex side labelled talented but flaky by those who watched them regularly.
But just two defeats in as many seasons and none at all in their title triumph last summer means it’s a label which doesn’t stick any more.
“The character we have shown and the games we have won in the last few years bodes well,” said Simpson. “The mental side is obviously something we have really tried to target and work hard on. Something we pride ourselves on is if we can’t win, don’t get beat.”
Dispensing with their soft underbelly duly brought the wins which led to the epic scenes at Lord’s in September as Angus Fraser’s side beat reigning champions Yorkshire plus Somerset to the crown on an remarkable final day of the campaign. The old adage goes that it is one thing to win a title, quite another to keep it, but Simpson sees no need for a change in thinking or approach, and says consistency will win out.
He concedes, however, that with Division One cut to eight clubs, whoever hits the ground running will have the drop on the rest. “I don’t think it is a different mental challenge trying to keep a title to trying to win one, not from my perspective anyway,” he added.
“It is still a case of trying to be consistent and if you look at the last three or four seasons, whoever is the most consistent side wins it.
“That’s something we are going to have to be even better at this year especially with eight teams in the first division because the scrabbling in the middle pack is going to become very congested come June or July. We have got to start fast and get a couple of wins before the 50-over competition starts.”
Middlesex’s Toby Roland-Jones, right, is mobbed by his teammates after taking the wicket of Yorkshire’s Ryan Sidebottom to win the County Championship at Lords in September Dan Mullan/Getty Images