Today Staffordshire host Middlesex at Milford Hall Cricket Club in one of the final county matches of the season – a Royal London One-Day County Championship game which will see both sides fight relegation. The match starts at 11am and it is free entry, so head down to see some top class cricket featuring several international players.
Middlesex have named a strong squad for the match; Tash Miles, Naomi Dattani, Fran Wilson, Sophia Dunkley, Beth Morgan, Anna Nicholls, Millie Pope, Holly Huddleston, India Whitty, Alex Hartley and Ria Raval (possible batting order).
Both Staffordshire and Middlesex won one of their two games over the Bank Holiday weekend – Staffs beat Surrey by seven wickets following an abandoned match against Sussex on the Sunday. While Middlesex bounced back with a five wicket win over Warwickshire after a rain-affected loss to Yorkshire.
The in-form batsman for Staffordshire is captain and England Women’s Academy (EWA) player Eve Jones. In their win over Surrey she made 110 off 107 – her top county score of the season, an innings which included an impressive 16 fours and three sixes. In a mid-week fixture representing Marylebone Cricket Club against Cheshire, she scored another century and is certainly the batsman Middlesex will look to dismiss cheaply.
EWA and Staffs’ off-spinning allrounder, Steph Butler, will be looking to end the season on a high as the county battles the fight against relegation. Butler is averaging 18.17 with the bat this year for the Midlands side, top-scoring with 35 in a Second Division T20 loss to Surrey.
Staffordshire’s third EWA representative is Alex MacDonald who was part of Yorkshire’s County Championship title winning squad last season. MacDonald is predominately a medium-fast bowler but like many in the England set-up takes on an allrounder role at county level. She is averaging 20.86 with bat in hand and claimed four wickets for Staffs this year.
Middlesex also have a number of players in the England set-up, including Wilson (England-contracted) and Hartley who have represented the country this summer, in good form ahead of this fixture.
Left-arm orthodox Hartley, delivered a masterclass on spin to players and spectators alike on Monday. Warwickshire were tied down at the start of their innings and had started to build a partnership, albeit more in the form of dot balls than runs, when Wilson brought her into the attack. The spinner did just what was asked – bowled a wicket maiden. Most players would be pleased to even produce one in a game but Hartley went on to show why she made her England-debut this summer as her next over was also a wicket maiden. The young spinner then bowled another four overs in that spell and just one went for runs – only two. Hartley went on to finish with her best figures of the season: ten overs, five maidens 3-17. This three wicket-haul has brought her tally for the season to 11 at an average of just 9.91 with a low economy rate of 2.92.
Despite only playing for Middlesex on five occasions this season due to injury and England commitments, Fran Wilson is topping the batting averages with 42.25 and a high score of 63 not out. In Izzy Westbury’s absence (due to injury) she is also likely to skipper the side as she did in their last match. With Wilson playing, Middlesex can expect not only runs and calmness at the crease – something the county is known to lack on occasion – but some superb fielding and tactical nous.
The other and most notable player from Middlesex to have represented England is Beth Morgan who continues to churn out runs at county and club level. She has accumulated 213 runs at 30.43 in county cricket this season. Despite having a high score of 43 not out for Middlesex this season, it has been two crucial innings of 36 not out which have shown Morgan’s character as a quality batsman. The first was in a nail-biter against Somerset. Having bowled the visitors out for 145, Middlesex looked sure of a win at 120-4 with Morgan and new batsman Nicholls at the crease but nerves got to the young batsmen as they struggled to 144-9 with Morgan remaining at the crease on 32. It was a much tighter finish than anticipated and there was great relief from the Middlesex contingent as Morgan hit a four to secure a win. Her second 36 not out was last Monday against Warwickshire as Middlesex looked to chase down the low total of 97 but lost early wickets and were stuttering at 34-4. But it was a strong 48-run partnership between the experienced Morgan and young Dunkley which got them to 82-5, and Nicholls joined Morgan to finish the job.
With Middlesex having a very strong spin attack; Dunkley, Hartley and Westbury it was no surprise when they signed New Zealand quick Holly Huddleston. The Kiwi has done just what is asked of an overseas; inspire the next generation and perform to the best of your ability. Huddleston has taken many batsmen by surprise due to her sheer pace and claimed 15 wickets at just 14.80. Partly off the back of her impressive season she has been awarded a contract with the White Ferns – New Zealand’s national side.
It should be a good game, made even more interesting by the prospect of relegation for either side in which bonus points could be crucial.
N.B. All Middlesex stats exclude the Pemberton and Greenish Cup