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Middlesex need maximum points to keep cup hopes alive, says Simpson

John Simpson of Middlesex. Pic: Sarah Williams John Simpson of Middlesex. Pic: Sarah Williams

Ben Kosky
Thursday, July 31, 2014
7:25 AM

John Simpson believes Middlesex must win all their remaining group fixtures to stay in the Royal London Cup after opening the tournament with back-to-back defeats.

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The Panthers suffered a seven-wicket defeat in their first 50-over game at Glamorgan on Saturday before going down in a far closer contest against Warwickshire at Lord’s 24 hours later.

Those results completed a miserable week for Middlesex, whose County Championship hopes were effectively ended by Yorkshire before they lost four limited-overs matches in as many days.

One of those was a nail-biting last-ball finish against Surrey at Lord’s in the NatWest T20 Blast – a competition in which Middlesex lost their first two games and then continued to flounder.

The Panthers meet their London rivals at Lord’s again in their next Royal London Cup tie on Thursday and wicketkeeper Simpson admits there could be a danger of repeating their T20 woes in the longer format.

“There’s potentially that [scenario], but we’ve got to reflect and have a think about how we can improve our own game, then we have to bounce back and get some momentum in this competition,” he said.

“We’ve got to keep our chins up and put last week’s results on the back burner – this is a fresh week. We’ve got to win all the next six and that starts on Thursday.

“It’s Middlesex against Surrey – there’s no bigger derby and it’s a great opportunity for us to put one over on them, throw a spanner in the works, and also kick-start the competition for ourselves.”

The Panthers were subjected to a hectic schedule at the end of last week, facing Surrey on Thursday night before heading to Taunton to complete their T20 programme against Somerset the following evening.

After a late-night journey to Cardiff, the team were then back in action at 10.30am on Saturday and collapsed to 90-8 before a partnership between Neil Dexter and Steven Finn hauled them to a more respectable 174-8.

However, that total was nowhere near enough as Glamorgan eased home with almost 14 overs to spare – and Middlesex then had to make the long journey back to London to meet Warwickshire in their second group tie.

Despite restricting their visitors to 240-7 and reaching 180-3 in reply, the Panthers then lost Ryan Higgins (26) and Chris Rogers (96) in successive overs, and eventually came up four runs short.

“We were in a great position, then we lost Higgo and Buck – who were reasonably well set – at a crucial time and that slowed the momentum down,” reflected Simpson, who hit 23 in that fruitless run chase.

“Credit to Warwickshire, their spinners mixed the pace up and didn’t bowl too many bad balls. But obviously we’re gutted to be on the wrong end of another result.

“Maybe we didn’t field as well as we could have done but I think that was down to four tough days on the bounce – although that’s no excuse.

“That’s the schedule and performing day in, day out is what we’re here to do. We’ve got to be switched on from ball one and we haven’t performed as well as we can.”

After the Surrey match, which gets under way at 10.30am, the Panthers have further ties against Somerset, Sussex, Durham, Nottinghamshire and Kent, all taking place during the first three weeks of August.

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