Apr 17 2012 By Jon Batham
THE RETURN of England Test stars Andrew Strauss and Steven Finn spells a day of angst on Tuesday for Middlesex’ s Angus Fraser.
With two of the heroes of Sunday’s three-run victory over arch rivals Surrey required to make room for the England captain and his young pace bowler Director of Cricket Fraser must agonise over who to leave out – I’m assuming of course he will not say thanks but no thanks to Geoff Miller and co.
And one issue in particular hangs over the conversation with head coach Richard Scott – how do you solve a problem like Neil Dexter.
The young Middlesex captain has led a revival in the county’s fortunes since taking over from Shaun Udal part way through the 2010 season, leading the tenants of Lord’s back to the County Championship’s top table last term.
The 27-year-old also took vital wickets and marshalled his troops expertly as Surrey’s bid to make just 141 for victory on Sunday came up three runs short.
However, the former Kent man cannot buy a run just now in a form slump which stretches back to the middle of the last campaign.
Dexter’s last 12 first-class innings have realised just 115 runs.
Batting of course is not the only criteria and leaving out Dexter would remove a captain who clearly inspires those around him.
However, there are alternative captain’s available – Chris Rogers did the job when Dexter was injured at the end of last season and even Strauss himself could step into the role on a short term basis.
The question remains if Dexter stays in place then who are the alternatives to make way?
It seems unlikely Joe Denly will be despatched to the seconds so soon after arriving at Lord’s, while Rogers was the mainstay of the batting last year and provides the glue in the Middlesex top order.
Dawid Malan’s 88 in the first innings against Surrey has probably secured the mercurial talent his spot, which leads us to youngster Sam Robson.
The young Australian born opener is the least marque name of the top order yet his figures stack up better than his so-called betters.
In contrast to Dexter the 22-year-old’s last 10 first-class innings have brought 480 runs including two centuries at an average in excess of 50, yet you can’t escape the nagging feeling he will asked to step aside.
There is precedent for the club asking youngsters to make way before – just ask Dan Housego who was axed last summer when six into five would not go. He has since left for Gloucester having never recovered his form.
Robson surely deserves better, so is there another alternative available to Fraser and co which does not involve denting the confidence of one of England’s brightest young prospects or asking the captain to take a view from the balcony on Thursday?
With Finn likely to replace the unlucky Toby Roland-Jones and Ollie Rayner retained in the interests of providing balance to the attack is Gareth Berg now an unlikely candidate for discard.
Such a thought will sit uncomfortably with Middlesex fans after the all-rounder’s heroics at Leicester last September, but the 30-year-old is struggling with the bat just now and you could take the view Dexter can fill the dual role of batting at six and filling in as fourth seamer though I personally am not convinced.
Whatever way you cut it a long day and possibly a long night looks on the cards for Fraser and the rest of the Middlesex hierarchy.