Batting must improve, says Dexter

MIDDLESEX'S Neil Dexter believes the club need more competition for batting places if they are to turn their fortunes around next season. Dexter made two separate centuries in last week's County Championship defeat...

MIDDLESEX'S Neil Dexter believes the club need more competition for batting places if they are to turn their fortunes around next season.

Dexter made two separate centuries in last week's County Championship defeat by his old club Kent, but admits he would welcome a harder battle to keep his place in the side.

Only victory in their final game of the season, currently in progress against Derbyshire at Uxbridge, will give Middlesex any chance of avoiding the wooden spoon for the first time.

"The problem is that all our batsmen this year have been inconsistent in Championship cricket and I'm as much to blame as anyone," Dexter told the Journal. "I'm sure it'll be a bit tougher next year.


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Pressure

"We don't yet know who we'll be getting into the squad for next season, but it'd be nice to be under more pressure. We can't really do much worse.

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"You can't take your place for granted and I'm not saying anyone has been, but I enjoy better competition and I just feel a bit of pressure might produce more runs.

"Finishing bottom of the County Championship would be the worst feeling but, if we can learn from the mistakes we've made this year, I believe we can change it."

With Andrew Strauss, Owais Shah and Eoin Morgan away on England duty, it has been left to the likes of Dexter, Nick Compton and Dawid Malan to hold the Middlesex batting order together in recent weeks.

But that has opened the first-team door for youngsters like Sam Robson, Adam London and John Simpson, and Dexter - who missed much of the middle of the season with a back injury - feels the future is bright.

"Before I came back I played a few second team games with the young guys who are now in the side, and from what I've seen of them they're very talented players," he said.

Mature

"I think many of them are more mature than other youngsters around the game and that gives us more depth. Hopefully they can keep taking their chances and make the decisions harder for coaches and captains."

Dexter hit a defiant 146 against Kent after his former team-mates had racked up 652-7 on a favourable Uxbridge track, but Middlesex were still made to follow on after totalling 356.

And it looked as if Dexter (118) and Malan (80) might stave off defeat as they shared a fourth-wicket partnership of 202 in the second innings, but they succumbed for 326 and Kent knocked off their small target in only 5.1 overs.

Despite their woes in the four-day game, Middlesex are still in contention for the Pro40 Division Two title after beating Derbyshire by 50 runs at Uxbridge on Sunday.

Malan (32) and Dexter (31) offered Compton support as he struck a classy 107, with Simpson adding 29 to help Middlesex to 242-4 from their 40 overs.

Derbyshire's reply never really got going, with Tim Murtagh, Gareth Berg and Shaun Udal all taking two wickets before Tyron Henderson knocked over the last two in successive deliveries.

The result means that, if Middlesex beat North-amptonshire in their last game on Saturday and other results go in their favour, they could yet end a poor season with some tangible success, although Kent and Warwickshire are also in the frame.

"We've done well throughout the Pro40 and the main thing is that, unlike in the Championship, batsmen have been scoring runs consistently, which is what you have to do to win games," Dexter added.

"Any tournament where you can finish at the top is good and it'd be nice to take something back from the season and build on it next year.

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