YOUTHS PROVIDING CRUMBS OF COMFORT
SOWTHER AND HIGGINS SHOW SENIORS HOW IT’S DONE
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