Middlesex bowler targets county title after signing new deal at Lord’s
PUBLISHED: 12:10 23 January 2014
© Sarah Williams 2013
Tim Murtagh says landing the County Championship trophy is his top priority after signing a new three-year deal to stay with Middlesex.
Murtagh, Middlesex’s leading wicket-taker in each of the last three seasons, has committed himself to the club until the end of the 2016 campaign and is keen to finish his career at Lord’s.
And the 32-year-old seamer, a fringe member of the Surrey squad that won the title back in 2002, is determined to repeat that achievement with their cross-town rivals before he retires.
Murtagh’s wickets helped Middlesex to take third place in the County Championship in 2012 and, despite another spirited challenge for the crown last season, they eventually dropped to fifth.
“My number one goal is to bring the championship back to Lord’s,” said Murtagh. “I tasted that feeling at Surrey, although it was more a case of giving the youngsters a go at the end of the season and I played a few games here and there.
“It’s a feeling I’m desperate to experience again at Middlesex and I think we’re closer to doing it now than at any time since I joined the club.
“Last season, we were up there at various points during the year and faded a bit towards the end. But we’ve no-one to blame but ourselves for where we did finish.
“It was disappointing and it left a bitter taste in my mouth, as well as the mouths of the rest of the team and the management. We’ll be doing our best to put that right this year.
“I’ve had a great time at Middlesex since I joined the club from Surrey – everyone made me feel really welcome and now I feel like I’m part of the furniture.
“To get the opportunity of signing for another three years was one I jumped at. I don’t want to play my cricket anywhere else and I see myself hopefully finishing my career at Middlesex.”
It is seven years since Murtagh opted to quit Surrey and cross the Thames and, following the departure of ex-West Indies Test paceman Corey Collymore at the end of last season, he is now very much the senior man in Middlesex’s seam bowling department.
Collymore had been helping to mentor the clutch of young pace prospects emerging through the ranks at Middlesex, and Murtagh says he is happy to act in a similar role when required.
“I guess it’s something that comes with age,” Murtagh admitted. “I’ve taken that on board the last couple of years, watching the way Corey has been with the younger bowlers. He set a great example.
“Primarily Middlesex are paying me to take wickets and help the club challenge for honours, but part of my job is passing on any advice I can and I’d be happy to do that.
“Toby [Roland-Jones] has made good strides and we’ve got James Harris as well as some good young fast bowlers coming through, like Tom Helm and Harry Podmore.
“I’d like to think any of them would feel they can come and talk to me about bowling, dealing with the day-to-day stresses of cricket or anything else.”
While Murtagh has mainly focused on four-day cricket with Middlesex in recent years, he has also found a new lease of life in the shorter forms of the game at international level.
Despite growing up in London, Murtagh qualifies for Ireland through his grandfather and has been a regular member of their national squad since 2012.
Along with Middlesex team-mate Paul Stirling, he heads to the Caribbean this week, where Ireland will play in the regional 50-over tournament in Trinidad before taking on the West Indies in a one-day international series.
The Middlesex pair are also hoping to feature in the Twenty20 World Cup, which takes place in Bangladesh just before the start of the new domestic season.
“I’ve really enjoyed the time I’ve been involved with Ireland,” added Murtagh. “It’s been great for me, it’s given me some cricket during the winter and keeps me ticking over.
“We won three trophies last year, which was magnificent, and we keep proving that we’re the top associate team. This West Indies tour will be great exposure for us and, the more of that we can get, the better.
“Hopefully it’s also taken my one-day skills to a new level and improved a side of my game that has maybe been neglected a little bit in recent years.”