Skipper Udal believes new Middlesex faces will make the difference

SKIPPER Shaun Udal believes Middlesex s remodelled squad can revive the club s County Championship fortunes this summer following their dismal performance in 2009, writes Ben Kosky. The Lord s county only narrowly escaped finishing bottom of the table for

SKIPPER Shaun Udal believes Middlesex's remodelled squad can revive the club's County Championship fortunes this summer following their dismal performance in 2009, writes Ben Kosky.

The Lord's county only narrowly escaped finishing bottom of the table for the first time in their history, but have brought in seven new players and revamped the coaching structure during the close season.

Experienced international seam bowling pair Iain O'Brien and Pedro Collins have replaced Alan Richardson and Chris Silverwood, with left-arm spinner Tom Smith arriving to replace Murali Kartik.

Kartik, along with opening batsman Nick Compton, joined Somerset, but Middlesex have added Surrey's Scott Newman to the squad, along with young trio Paul Stirling, Josh Davey and Toby Roland-Jones.

And the batting line-up is further strengthened by the fact that England skipper Andrew Strauss will be available until mid-May, while Owais Shah is currently out of favour at international level.

"Owais has a point to prove," Udal told Ham&High Sport. "He's still young enough and he's got the desire to get back in the England side.

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"It's down to him to show the necessary nous and application to get back in through sheer weight of runs. It's good for us to have him and Straussy and Scott Newman coming in has also improved the batting.

"We're optimistic about the bowling department as well. If we score the runs, we'll compete in any game - we know we've got the unit to bowl sides out.

"We got the same amount of bowling points as Kent last year and they went up. You'd probably have to say Sussex are the favourites this time, but I think everyone's pretty much equal in this division.

"The County Championship is the pinnacle, the guide to where you are and the players are aware that we were very disappointing last season, but we think things will be better this time."

Shah and Eoin Morgan are currently occupied with the Indian Premier League, while batsman Neil Dexter is out for at least a month with a back injury.

Otherwise, Middlesex will begin their County Championship campaign tomorrow against Worcestershire at New Road with a full squad - minus one man who will be lining up for the opposition.

Wicket-keeper Ben Scott has been loaned to Worcestershire for a month while Middlesex hand the gloves to Brondesbury CC's John Simpson.

"Ben by his own admission had a very poor season with the bat and we thought it was a perfect opportunity for him to get some first-class batting practice," added Udal.

"If he gets big runs, it puts some pressure on John, who's now got the opportunity to prove what he can do. If he bats as well as he did at the end of last season, he could be the answer to our number six problem."

Middlesex also confirmed this week that they have signed Australian batsman David Warner to play alongside compatriot Adam Gilchrist for their Twenty20 campaign later in the summer.

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