Cricket makes a welcome return to Lord’s this week when Middlesex host Surrey in the County Championship – and for Tim Murtagh it’s a chance to return to winning ways against his old county.
The Middlesex paceman enjoyed an outstanding campaign last year, taking 80 wickets as his team lifted the second division title.
But an opening six-wicket defeat against Somerset in Taunton last week was a reminder of the challenge facing them in the top flight this season.
“It is definitely more of a test, no doubt about it,” Murtagh told West London Sport.
“There are some quality teams who have played first division cricket for a number of years, and have some experienced and world-class players as well. But it’s something I think we’re ready for.”
I point out that Surrey have been tipped to win the first division by one well-known publication and suggest that Middlesex must have an equally good chance, having beaten Surrey to the second division title last year.
Murtagh is cautious in his reply.
“Every competition we go into we have the aim of winning – but to boldly say we’re going to win the County Championship in the first year, well it might not happen,” he says.
“Our number-one priority is to do well in the championship, to stabilise ourselves as a division one team. That’s the goal that Angus Fraser has set us all.”
Championship cricket may be Murtagh’s priority this summer but there is the exciting prospect of playing in the World Twenty20 tournament in Sri Lanka immediately after.
The 30-year-old was drafted into Ireland’s squad for the qualifiers last month and they reached the finals. Their opening match is against Australia in Colombo on 19 September.
Not surprisingly, Murtagh would love to be involved.
“Yeah, definitely,” he says. “I got called up for the last four days of the qualifying competition, and although I didn’t play, it was a great experience. It just gave me a little taste of what I want more of.
“That’s something I’m going to have at the back of my mind throughout the whole season, that there’s the potential of that prize at the end of the season.
“I’m going to have to work to fight my way into that team because there are some very talented players and they’re a very good team now as well. I was privileged to be a small part of that.”
Middlesex v Surrey in LV=County Championship Division One begins at Lord’s this Thursday at 11am