By Callum Dent
Middlesex Panthers batsman Dawid Malan is excited to have the opportunity of swapping “fighting for your life” in the LV= County Championship for the freedom of smashing sixes in the NatWest T20 Blast tomorrow.
Angus Fraser's side will look to inject their impressive four-day cricket home form into their T20 Blast campaign, which starts in intriguing fashion with a double-header versus Essex Eagles and Sussex Sharks, who also play Surrey tonight, at Lord's.
As a batsman, facing the new cherry early season in English conditions can be a challenge, meaning Malan is relishing the chance to express himself against the white ball in front of a big crowd at the home of cricket.
The left-hander told ecb.co.uk: “When you have been fighting for your life, if you want to put it that way, in four-day cricket with the ball nipping around, hopefully we can have a couple of flat ones and we can swing through a couple and hit a few big ones.
“It will be interesting to go from playing a forward defensive to hitting the ball out of the ground. We are looking forward to it, we all love Twenty20 and we want to win the Twenty20. It is very exciting for us. If the guys that we pick perform, then there is no reason why we cannot do well.
“A packed house at Lord’s is an unbelievable experience. The buzz of the ground and the whole history of the ground is just awesome. Hopefully we can play to our potential and hopefully beat the teams and that would be awesome in front of a packed house.”
With England players available to feature in the T20 Blast, Malan believes the performances of Steven Finn and Eoin Morgan will be integral to the Panthers' chance of success in this season's competition.
He said: “Me and Morgy started playing at a similar time, he started playing a bit before me. I have always asked Morgy advice on how to play and approach different situations.
"To have someone like Steven Finn around is a massive bonus for us. There are not many guys that are 6ft 7in and bowl rockets. If they are fit and do play all the Twenty20s, then that would be awesome for us and help our campaign massively.”
Morgan, who will skipper England in their sole Twenty20 international against Sri Lanka on Tuesday evening due to the absence of the injured Stuart Broad, will also lead the Panthers after replacing Neil Dexter.
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On Morgan's captaincy, Malan added: “Morgy is a different captain to what Dexy is and he has his different thoughts from what he has learnt over his career from England and the Indian Premier League. Hopefully that will bring an edge to our game.”
Malan was his side's top run-scorer in the sprint format last term, scoring 351 runs in 10 innings with three half-centuries.
A Twenty20 century eluded him in 2013, but the 26-year-old would love to reach the milestone this time around.
Malan said: “There is always pressure, you always want to score runs for the team and you want to be doing well for yourself.
“I would like to be up there again and, from a personal point of view, I put a lot of pressure on myself. Hopefully I can continue what I did last year.
“Hundreds are few and far between in Twenty20. But it is always an aim when you want to go out and score a hundred. Hopefully I can get one this time.”
Standing in the way of Middlesex, who have Australian all-rounder Dan Christian in their ranks, tomorrow are two sides that have an array of talented performers within their squads.
The likes of Alastair Cook, Ravi Bopara and New Zealand star batsman Jesse Ryder are set to play for Essex while Sussex, despite an Achilles injury sidelining Matt Prior, have Luke Wright, Chris Jordan and Yasir Arafat available at their disposal.
Malan knows the Panthers will need to be at their best, saying: “They are both exceptionally good Twenty20 teams. They have both got good players and good squads in this format.
“You expect them to hit you hard and attack you with both bowling and batting.
“We know we have got our work cut out and rock up on the day and play as well as we can to beat them.”
Essex head coach Paul Grayson, without the services of injured bowlers David Masters and Tymal Mills, said: "Middlesex have proved a bit of a bogey side for us in the competition in the past and hopefully we can lay that to one side and start our campaign off with a victory."