Top Middlesex Players in 2020 T20 Vitality Blast
By TMGA Global Head Coach, Josh Knappett
Middlesex Cricket’s Vitality Blast T20 2020 campaign after 8 games; 3 wins, 3 losses, 1 washed out, and 1 tie.
Middlesex needs to win their last 2 games with a result going in their favour to keep their hopes alive for reaching the knock-out stages.
As preparations are underway going into those final games of this condensed, COVID struck season, there have been some standout team and individual Middlesex performances.
As we know, isolated incidents can impact the result in T20 cricket due to the high paced nature of this wonderful game. Identifying and taking control through those intense and critical moments allows individuals to swing the game in their team’s favour. Performance is made up of skill, personal attributes and character and when a player can hold their nerve when pressure is most rampant, win the 1:1 battles between them and their opponent, keep aware to their strategy and still produce moments of outstanding brilliance, it really is complex and impressive.
We see the highlights packages, the compilation of 6’s, the athletics and acrobatics in the field around the boundary edge, and the bowlers knocking the zinger bails flying, but what we don’t always appreciate are the personal attributes that allow players to perform those skills when they and the team need them. We also don’t see the challenges that players face, the distractions off the field, and the hours of practice that individuals put in to compete at their top of the game and the top of their potential.
Let’s not pretend otherwise; winning games IS important. Progressing through the tournament and allowing the club to represent itself at Final’s Day and taking home the trophy as we did in 2008… well, that’s always the aim. There are essential steps up to this goal that needs to not be skipped or overlooked. As Sachin is constantly reminding us; “Don’t take shortcuts. They will hurt you in the long run”. Some of these steps are crucial for the good of the game, for the betterment of the people in the club and for the club as a whole. Like giving younger players experience of the big stage, getting the right players performing their roles to the best of their ability, being entertaining and getting into the winning habit that helps players and teams establish courage, confidence and belief.
It's great to see homegrown Middlesex Youth Players who have developed through our Academy to, not only playing a part in the games but by having moments where they show their quality with match influencing performances too. Special mentions to Max Holden (T20 59 ball Hundred vs Essex in rain abandoned match), Jack Davis, Martin Andersson.
I want to highlight 5 stand-out Middlesex performers that have impressed so far! And explain what’s so impressive and why these players are dominating. They are:
Steve Eskinazi - Mr consistent. Leading by example. Humble, honest, hard-working. ‘Eski’ has not only been destructive at the top, but he has also read the game and adapted superbly. He has displayed incredible flexibility and versatility and has prioritised the team outcome through his approach to each moment of each innings. I want to compare 2 contrasting yet effective innings where he has opened the batting: 1) 77 off 44 balls in pursuit of Surrey’s 218, run out in the 17th over with real belief that Middlesex could win. Compared to, 2) where he had only faced 17 balls in the first 10 overs as each partner was being destructive and he didn’t need many strikes. Yet he stayed calm, composed and clear of his role, happy to support rather than lead. Every team needs someone like this; a great person, high achieving, adaptable.
376 runs (leading run-scorer in the T20 Blast after 8 games)
Steven Finn - Captain. Leading from the front. Pace, bounce and wickets at key moments. As one of the most experienced cricketers in the country (youngest bowler for England to reach 100 ODI wickets) he has bowled the high-pressure overs and has produced outstanding results. Finny has been a fantastic captain. He has taken this role with huge pride and honour and has struck a great balance with getting key players in the game at key moments, without wasting resource, as well as giving younger players opportunities and exposure that will allow these rapidly developing players opportunities show their ability and learn from the competition. Finny is a great example where personal attributes and characteristics make the performer. Sure he has played for England, he can bowl fast, and with his height, he gets great bounce, however, it's his determination, competitiveness, resilience (to keep bouncing back) are hugely commendable. This combined with a work ethic to keep learning to improve and get better year on year is what makes him one of the most effective and valuable cricketers in the county circuit!
13 Wickets (Joint leading wicket-taker in the T20 Blast after 8 games)
Econ 7.7 | Ave 16.00
Luke Hollman - Break out year. Young. Middlesex homegrown player, through and through. Luke is multi-skilled and has proven his ability to perform really well under pressure at this level as a leg spinner in his own right, however, he is also a destructive batter with fast hands and true power, and has a wonderful set of hands with a rocket throw. He will be learning from every moment of this opportunity that Steven Finn and Stuart Law (captain and head coach, respectively) have given him.
Joe Cracknell - Young Middlesex homegrown through and through. Joe and Luke both grew up together at the same club, North Middlesex, from a young age and worked their way through the Youth Pathway through the Academy. Joe has battled serve injuries as a late teenager and came back, stronger, fitter, better. It is this resilience and his fearless approach that has properly him to be one of the hardest hitting and destructive batters in the club. ‘Crackers’ has been brilliant in the field but his second skill would be behind the stumps. With John Simpson in possession of the gloves, he has earned his place in the team as an out and out batter. He has used this experience so far to show that he has the attributes and temperament to compete and succeed at this level of the game and is very entertaining to watch. Take a look at his highlights package, and for a fine display of real power hitting watch out for the one where he hits Overton onto the roof of Lords’ Tavern Stand!!!
Tom Helm (Future England), has bowled a few of the best overs in the T20 Vitality Blast this year! He has taken wickets consistently through the tournament, and crucially closed out games under the most extreme pressure. His ability to bowl fast and swing it from a smooth and relaxed action in the opening overs, and then his super strength to change his skill set and execute his outcomes a few moments later at the death over is simply awesome. He has a huge amount of deception and craft behind with his variety of slower balls. Not only does he know how to bowl them very well, with no time to adust, but he knows when to bowl them and how to read the batter to bowl the right ball, to the right batter, at the right time, with the right field… The game against Essex, when they needed 5 off the last over to win, and he held them to a tie (and almost won it for a direct hit run out miss), and then again vs Kent, with Kent needing 9 to win in the final over, with Bell-Drummond on 89 off 53 balls on strike… Helm dismissed Bell-Drummond off the first ball, then held out the over to ensure Middlesex win by 2 runs – this guy has got nerves of steel and tactical awareness to do what he does!!
In the next article, I’ll be taken some of these key moments, and others from the next 2 games and breaking them down technically and tactically giving my thoughts on what the players have done so well. I’ll be looking into women’s cricket too, to share some of what our Middlesex players are doing in the Rachael Hayhoe Flint 50 Over Trophy.
Good luck to the Middlesex Cricket team as they take on Sussex Sharks today in a crunch match.