May 21 2013 Latest news:
Thursday, August 16, 2012
Middlesex’s batting coach Mark O’Neill has backed John Simpson to shake off his dreadful run of form at the crease.
The 24-year-old wicketkeeper, who bats at number six, has not made a half-century all season, scraping just 33 runs from his last seven County Championship innings.
Those grim statistics, along with last weekend’s eight-wicket thrashing at Sussex, persuaded the Middlesex management to leave Simpson out of the side for the Surrey clash that began on Wednesday, with Adam Rossington taking his place behind the stumps.
But the genial O’Neill, a veteran of Sheffield Shield cricket with Western Australia and New South Wales, believes Middlesex’s schedule has been a significant factor in Simpson’s lack of form with the bat.
“The hardest thing for most of these guys, and John in particular, was he hardly got a hit in the t20 – and if he did, he had to suddenly try and put five balls out of the park,” O’Neill told london24.com.
“For a five or six-week period he never got to play a forward defensive shot. Then we restarted the CB40 and the blokes at the top of the order were scoring all the runs, so he didn’t actually get a hit.
“It’s a big kick in the pants when, for a long period of time, you’ve been sitting down watching others do the business, and all of a sudden you’re expected to go out there and bat the way you’ve always batted.
“John will bounce back – he’s a very good cricketer. All he needs to do is spend more time in the middle and, with the frenetic pace of the t20 and CB40, sometimes it can be difficult to calm yourself down and play a good-length ball defensively.”
Simpson’s failure with the bat was by no means unique at Hove, where Middlesex lost inside three days after being bowled out for totals of 170 and 211 – the second low-scoring defeat in their last three games.
And O’Neill feels that the batsmen with better technical ability are still suffering the after-effects of the appalling early and mid-season weather, which brought about bowler-friendly wickets.
He added: “The first year I was here was the first time you weren’t allowed to use the heavy roller, so the wickets were divoting up and it was basically unplayable in the third and fourth innings.
“But this year the weather has been absolutely unbelievable and it’s been very hard to coach. Players have had to relearn to trust the wicket – react to what they see and have the courage of their convictions.
“Unfortunately, with some of the wickets we’ve played on, the better your technique, the more time you spend in the changing-room. You get into line, the ball moves away and you’re in the right place to nick it.
“I’ve never experienced anything like this. Where I come from you get 10 matches a year channelling in blazing sunshine on rock-hard wickets – in this situation you’re like a sitting duck.”
Middlesex dominated the first day of their game against Surrey at The Oval as they reached 99-1 at the close after bowling out the home side for just 144, with former Surrey paceman Tim Murtagh taking 5-37.