On Sunday June 12 Middlesex will make the short journey to North Maidenhead Cricket Club where they will be hosted by Berkshire who sit one place above them in the Royal London One Day County Championship table. The match starts at 11am and it is free entry.
Middlesex have named a strong squad; Westbury (c), Bouchier, Dattani, Hartley, Huddleston, Miles, Morgan, Nicholls, Pope, Raval, Whitty and Wilson.
Alex Hartley and Fran Wilson return from injuries which kept them out of the past two and three fixtures respectively. It looks increasingly likely that Wilson will become a regular feature of England’s squad. Although being out for a few weeks she played in an England Women’s Academy/Development Programme team against a strong Ireland A side on Tuesday, and top-scored with 88.
Despite losing their last match which was against Sussex – a side that included Danni Wyatt and Georgia Elwiss – Middlesex showed there is far more depth to their squad than they have been given credit for.
In just their second match as the opening pair, Naomi Dattani and skipper Izzy Westbury shared a good stand of 51. Having played for Prahran in Melbourne, the pair know each other and their games very well, which has undoubtedly contributed to their understanding. Having batted alongside the former Southern Star, Jess Cameron to whom they frequently played second fiddle, both Dattani and Westbury have the ability to play out the opening bowlers with the knowledge the runs will come if they just stay in. Against Somerset on Sunday May 29, Westbury struck her high score for Middlesex – a well-made 43 after opening the innings with Dattani. Next day Dattani made 71, her top score for Middlesex First XI.
Dattani continued her form the next weekend scoring 143 in a convincing 260-run win for Finchley Gunns over Horsham where she captained and opened the batting. In the same game Beth Morgan played well with 74, while medium-pacer Millie Pope claimed her second four-wicket haul in eight days to finish with 4-9 from 5.5 overs. Pope also opened the batting and made 37, which should give her confidence if required to bat on Sunday, as no amount of net practice can equate to the feeling of bat on ball rewarded by runs.
With Sophia Dunkley not available for this fixture, it will be interesting to see if Tash Miles comes in and bats at five where the young England Women’s Academy (EWA) player has been batting recently, or if she edges out the skipper to open with Dattani.
It is Middlesex’s middle order which has been inconsistent. Against Somerset and Sussex, there were strong opening stands of 46 and 51 respectively, and good contributions from a young number three in Maia Bouchier of 17 and 30 before Beth Morgan made the last score of note. In the Somerset match she batted with the tail as Middlesex edged over the line to win by one wicket, courtesy of a Morgan four; she finished 36 not out.
Middlesex’s bowling line-up will be strengthened with Hartley’s return, as her control has been missed by the London side. Hartley – a left-arm orthodox spinner – has extra incentive to perform as she is also in the EWA squad, and many people believe she has a strong chance of an England call-up this summer for the Pakistan series.
New Zealand quick Holly Huddleston leads the seam attack. She has has beaten the bat on numerous occasions this season, and is pushing for a recall to the White Ferns squad with a particular hope of representing them in the 2017 World Cup over here. Huddleston has claimed 11 wickets at 12.82 with best figures of 3-9 in their win over Surrey, including the prized wicket of Nat Sciver. She will certainly open, and if Westbury doesn’t opt for Hartley other end, then right-arm fast Ria Raval will be her opening partner.
Berkshire’s squad is; Knight, Smith, Potgieter, Rudd, Macleod, Rogers, Morris, Gerke, Bell, Brown, Hardy, Bell and Gardner.
In her first game as both Berkshire and England captain, Heather Knight will hope to contribute heavily and return the county to their winnings ways before she departs for national duties. This season Knight has scored 258 runs at the impressive average of 51.60 with a top score of 92, made in a losing cause against top of the table Warwickshire. Knight will also be continuing to hone her skippering skills as she will lead the Western Storm in the inaugural Kia Super League (KSL) this summer, whose squad includes her opposite Middlesex number – Westbury – and Wilson.
Four other Berkshire players; Daisy Gardner, Alice MacLeod, Fi Morris and Carla Rudd are also taking part in the KSL but will be representing the Southern Vipers and will be captained by Charlotte Edwards.
With Gardner looking set to make a return after injury it will probably be she and fellow fast bowler Lauren Bell who the Middlesex openers need to play out carefully in order to build a platform.
Aside from Knight few batsmen have made notable contributions to Berkshire’s batting this season. With Middlesex’s squad on paper looking almost the strongest it has all year it will be important for Berkshire’s batsmen to stand up.
Rudd has scored two thirties this year but it is likely she will need to capitalise on any start she makes considering the form several of the Middlesex batsmen are in.
It should be an exciting game and will be a great chance to see a number of international and KSL players in action. Though if the current weather forecast is to be believed, rain will play a part in the day and we could see a reduced-overs match. Let us hope it is not a repeat of last year’s original fixture which was abandoned early-season but fortunately the teams were able to reschedule for a Saturday in July and the match went ahead with the result in Berkshire’s favour – a 38-run win.