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The competition in Vitality T20 Blast is getting more and more intense with every passing match and the South Group appears to be the most competitive of all. There is a difference of one point between any two teams placed next to each other and, therefore, any result could make a telling difference to the standings.
The upcoming match between Middlesex and Hampshire, the two teams placed in the bottom half, is of vital importance for both sides. The match is to be played at the iconic venue of Lord's Cricket Ground, London, on 12th September 2020.
Middlesex were perceived as one of the strongest team in the South Group of the tournament before the tournament started, but their performance so far has been dismal, to say the least. From a total of four completed matches, they have won just one and are currently placed at the fourth spot.
While Middlesex Panthers could consider themselves a bit unlucky as rain played spoil-sport when they were in a pretty good position, their performance thus far has been far from ordinary. Their only win in the competition has come against Essex, the team that is placed at the bottom of the ladder.
Middlesex Panthers are coming off a heartbreaking loss as they were trumped by Surrey on a surface that wasn't easy to bat on. Batting first, Middlesex's batting never looked in control and was bundled out for a total of 113 runs. Barring Matt Holden, who already has a hundred to his name in this edition, no one looked comfortable in the middle. Holden scored 29 off 29 deliveries and was the top-scorer for Middlesex.
There wasn't a lot their bowlers could have done defending a paltry total of 113. They all toiled hard and a few were reasonably successful as well, but the total they were defending was too little to put Surrey in any trouble whatsoever. Nathan Sowter and Steven Finn were the picks of their bowlers as they picked up a couple of wickets each for 16 and 22 runs respectively.
In the tournament so far, Middlesex have looked brilliant, but only in patches. While their bowling looks good, their batting is a tad too over-reliant on Stevie Eskinazi and Matt Holden. There have been contributions from their middle-order players, but those have been too far too few. Middlesex would need their middle-order players to contribute, and if that happens, Middlesex would take no time to get back into the contention.
Max Holden, Stephen Eskinazi, Dan Lincoln, Jack Davies, Martin Andersson, John Simpson, TJ Murtagh, Thomas Helm, Nathan Sowter, Miguel Cummins, ST Finn.
Hampshire were the group's underdogs, to begin with and their performance hasn't really surprised anyone thus far. They have managed to win just one match out of a total of four completed. Placed at the fifth spot on the ladder, Hampshire are staring at an early elimination and would be desperately looking for a win in this upcoming contest.
Just like Middlesex, Hampshire's only win came against the Eagles. It's been a while since that happened and Hampshire have lost two matches thereafter. Their last match was against Sussex Sharks, the match that they lost by 13 runs. Chasing a relatively modest total on a half-decent surface, Hampshire kept losing wickets at regular intervals, and that ultimately cost them the match.
The return of James Vince at the top would have been a huge boost for the side, but his lackluster outing didn't help the team. Vince just managed to score ten runs. Tom Alsop, who had looked reasonably good for them in the tournament, was their only batsmen who was able to match the required run-rate and stay at the crease. He scored 43 off 27. Hampshire's next best batsmen was Joe Weatherley, scoring 25 off 26, but once he was dismissed, things started drifting away from the Hants and they eventually lost the match by 13 runs.
Another big name to return to Hampshire's team is Shaheen Shah Afridi, but his performances in the previous two matches have been ordinary at best. In the previous match as well, he gave away runs at an economy rate of 9.25 on a surface that had some assistance for the bowlers. Chris Wood and Ian Holland did well and picked three wickets between them. Even though Mason Crane was not able to pick up a wicket, he bowled a useful spell as he kept things tight from one end.
With James Vince back, Hampshire's top-order certainly looks a bit stronger than it did a couple of matches ago. Only a few teams can stop him if he gets going. Hampshire would need him as well as their other batsmen to step up and if they can do that, Middlesex will have their work cut out.
James Vince, Tom Alsop, Sam Northeast, Joe Weatherley, James Fuller, Lewis McManus, Ian Holland, CP Wood, RA Stevenson, Mason Crane, Shaheen Afridi.
Check out the Dream11 fantasy team lineup for the upcoming Vitality T20 Blast match between Middlesex and Hampshire. Don't forget to check back the latest updated team right after the toss.
While the two teams were seeded almost on the opposite ends of the spectrum, there is striking similarity between the campaigns of the two teams. Both teams have so far struggled with the bat and have done reasonably well with the ball. Albeit is has not helped so far, the return of Shaheen Shah Afridi and James Vince should strengthen Hampshire going forward. Middlesex appears to be a little too over-reliant on their opening pair and that will be a major concern for their management. Considering that and the other factors stated above, a bet on Hampshire's win looks to be a really good proposition.
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