Uxbridge Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - JON BATHAM tms-sport@trin­i­tymir­ Twit­ter: @el­lis_red

TWO young­sters are pro­vid­ing Mid­dle­sex with crumbs of com­fort from what in­creas­ingly looks like an­other dis­ap­point­ing T20 cam­paign.

Back-to-back de­feats, to Lon­don ri­vals Sur­rey and then Som­er­set, mean at the half­way point of the group stages Mid­dle­sex are in the all-too fa­mil­iar po­si­tion of prop­ping up the rest.

Just two wins in seven matches sug­gests the ten­ants of Lord’s have failed to build on last year’s quar­ter-fi­nal spot in what is for­mer New Zealand spin­ner Daniel Vet­tori’s first sea­son as coach.

That said, Nathan Sowther and Ryan Hig­gins ap­pear to be en­joy­ing a rare mo­ment in the spot­light.

Aus­tralian-born Sowther has usurped Ravi Pa­tel and Ol­lie Rayner to be­come the county’s num­ber one spin­ner in the for­mat, be­com­ing a fix­ture in the line-up and tak­ing eight wick­ets so far as well as twice strik­ing with his first ball of the match.

His progress is no sur­prise to Vet­tori, who tried to sign Sowther for Bris­bane Heat’s Big Bash cam­paign last win­ter, and the coach is glad to fi­nally have the leg-spin­ner on his side.

“Leg-spin is a tricky one and once again we are in the most ag­gres­sive for­mat, so I’ve been re­ally im­pressed with Nathan,” said Vet­tori. “He has a real thirst for knowl­edge and out of ev­ery- one, I guess we have spent the most time to­gether be­cause of our affin­ity around spin bowl­ing. He is des­per­ate to get bet­ter and learn.

“He has a skillset where he knows what he is do­ing and the more balls he bowls to cer­tain types of play­ers [will en­sure] he is go­ing to get bet­ter and bet­ter. With things like his field­ing too, it all cul­mi­nates into a re­ally good pack­age.”

Hig­gins has also proved an in­valu­able as­set, pro­duc­ing cru­cial overs with the ball de­spite be­ing pal­pa­bly un­der-used.

It is with bat in hand though that the Zim­bab­wean-born all­rounder has re­ally demon­strated his prow­ess. His 68 off 28 balls against Sur­rey un­der­lined his abil­ity to strike a long ball, some­thing he achieved again with a five-ball 20 in de­feat to Som­er­set on Sun­day. “Ryan is very ag­gres­sive and has a lot of con­fi­dence in his game,” said Vet­tori. “He can go out there from ball one and un­der­stand ex­actly what he has to do.”

With mar­quee stars like skip­per Brendon McCul­lum – 131 runs in seven in­nings – fail­ing to sparkle, Sowther and Hig­gins’ ef­forts look likely to leave Vet­tori’s side short of the knock­out stages.

How­ever in a tight group the coach be­lieves five wins in the last seven games might see them sneak in.

“I think seven wins plus the bonus point for the tie sees us in the mix for a quar­ter-fi­nal place,” he added. “From there any­thing [could] hap­pen.”

Ryan Hig­gins Daniel L Smith/ Getty Im­ages

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