Last meeting: Essex Eagles beat Middlesex by 6 wickets
THE TEAM NEWS
Coach: Stuart Law
Captain: Dawid Malan
Middlesex endured a miserable Blast campaign last year, finishing rock bottom of the southern group after suffering 12 losses from their 14 group games and they have since disposed with their T20 coach Daniel Vettori and will be expecting a marked improvement this season under new coach Stuart Law.
Over a year on from his international retirement, South African legend AB de Villiers will play for Middlesex as an oversees player and he will be joined by talented young Afghanistan spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman, who played for Hampshire in last year’s Blast.
England skipper Eoin Morgan has been rested for this opening match following his World Cup exploits but Middlesex still boast plenty of star power if he is left out with Paul Stirling, captain Dawid Malan and De Villiers combining to make a formidable top order.
Coach: Anthony McGrath
Captain: Simon Harmer
Essex also suffered a dismal 2018 in the Vitality Blast as their overall total of eight points was the lowest the Eagles have accumulated in the group stage of the domestic English T20 competition since 2007.
Fresh from an impressive World Cup with Pakistan, fast bowler Mohammad Amir returns to Essex as their oversees player following a successful half season with the club in 2017 and he will be accompanied by another former Eagle in leg-spinner Adam Zampa, with the Australian representing Essex in last season’s Blast.
To boost them even further, T20 specialist Cameron Delport has joined this season and does not count as an overseas player due to having a UK passport and the big hitting South African will be available for this opening match after arriving in the country on Sunday.
Despite both teams being unfancied in this year’s Vitality Blast, there is set to be a healthy dose of star power on show at Lord’s this Thursday. The prospect of De Villiers facing up against Amir in particular is mouth-watering and whoever comes out on top could determine the outcome of the game.
With traditionally long boundaries at Lord’s, power hitting is expected to be crucial and Essex’s biggest weakness last year may well come back to haunt them once again, with a lot of pressure on Delport at the top of the order. Middlesex boast a more destructive batting line-up and it is that top order that should see them overpower Essex’s lesser bowlers and win the game.
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