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New boy Higgins brings Middlesex hope for the future

13:52 25 June 2014

Ryan Higgins batting for Middlesex second XI

Ryan Higgins batting for Middlesex second XI

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Scattered among the wreckage of their tortuous Twenty20 campaign, there appear to be at least a few beacons of hope for Middlesex Panthers.

The Panthers occupy bottom spot in the South group after losing all but one of their fixtures and, barring an extraordinary sequence of results, can forget any ambitions of progressing to the knockout phase.

Yet Middlesex’s last two NatWest T20 Blast games have also ushered in the promise of talent for the future, most notably in the shape of teenage batsman Ryan Higgins.

The 19-year-old stepped straight into the Panthers side at no 4 and calmly struck an unbeaten 44, sharing an unbroken century partnership with Joe Denly to earn his side an eight-wicket win over Somerset at the Oval.

Higgins, who gained his promotion to the senior ranks after some healthy scores for Middlesex’s second XI, also feels he has benefited from his experience at the Under-19 World Cup earlier this year.

The Middlesex youngster played in all of England’s games as they finished third at the tournament in Dubai, scoring 83 against New Zealand and 52 in their semi-final defeat to Pakistan.

“I think playing at the Under-19 World Cup did have an impact – it puts pressure on you that you might not get at second-team level,” said Higgins.

“I suppose that helped in certain situations at the Oval – I was thinking back to past situations and it did also develop my game off the field, in terms of thinking about how I approach my cricket.

“In a way, I think it helped my confidence to be put in a pressure situation – you feel that they’re backing you to go out and achieve something and I hope that can happen a few more times.

“Because you’ve got so much experience around you and guys willing to help you out every step of the way, it makes life easier, as a youngster coming into the side.

“Eoin [Morgan] said before my first game ‘if you need any help, come and have a chat’ and obviously the way that Joe batted, striking the ball superbly, also made life easier.”

Higgins’ impressive performance in the Somerset victory ensured that he retained his place in the Panthers side for their next T20 match, against group front-runners Essex Eagles at Chelmsford.

This time, the youngster’s stay at the crease was a brief one as he made seven runs from nine balls before falling to David Masters as Middlesex totalled 153-5 and ultimately lost by two wickets in a close finish.

However, the game also brought about a promising debut for another of the club’s youthful contingent – seam bowler Harry Podmore, who took 2-20 in three overs that included the wickets of seasoned internationals Jesse Ryder and Ryan ten Doeschate.

Both youngsters will be hoping to feature again when the Panthers return to Lord’s on Thursday for the first time in almost six weeks to take on Gloucestershire (6.15pm start).

Meanwhile, Higgins’ long-term aim is to continue picking up knowledge from his team-mates and coaches and gradually nudge his way into consideration for Middlesex’s four-day side as well.

“I’m learning day to day, trying to take bits and pieces off everyone,” he added. “I’m working a lot with [batting coach] Mark Ramprakash and Rory Coutts from the Academy and Richard Johnson in the second team.

“There’s a wealth of knowledge and experience there and it’s all about continuing to use that. I think the aim is to keep working hard on my game and doing what I’ve been doing.

“I’m trying to work hard on my red-ball game – that’s one of the big things for me and I’m really keen to develop my four-day batting. There’s a long way to go in the season and hopefully the hard work pays off.”

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