Fraser aims for championship challenge
Director of cricket Angus Fraser is targeting a title challenge for Middlesex following their outstanding return to Division One of the LV= County Championship last season.
Fraser oversaw a quite brilliant campaign in 2012, when the club finished third in the table having won Division Two the previous season.
The addition of pace bowler James Harris, in particular, has added to the belief that another good year awaits in 2013.
Fraser told ecb.co.uk: “Our message last year was to impress those in the division and get them thinking we are a decent side.
“Now our ambition is to build upon what we achieved last year and establish ourselves as one of the top-four sides in the country.
“We are hoping to make further progress, become more consistent as a side and hopefully put in a serious challenge to fight for honours.”
The signing of Harris has given Fraser added cause for optimism, especially given he is just 22 years old. While most players his age represent risks, the former Glamorgan seamer comes with five years’ experience on he county circuit.
“He could be someone who could take us towards challenging for the title – and hopefully he will,” added Fraser. “I think it was a real statement by Middlesex given he was arguably the best player in the marketplace this winter.
“He chose to come to Middlesex, which highlights the progress we have made in the last couple of years and the way people are viewing us. He is not only an exceptionally talented cricketer, but a very impressive young man too.
“When you sit and chat with him, he seems far more mature than he is. He’s an outstanding young man, every way you look at him. Normally when you’re 22, you think ‘what sort of record has he got and is it a long proven one?’.
“Usually there is an element with risk, but I doubt there will be with James because he has played four or five years of county cricket, has over 200 first-class wickets and knows the ropes pretty well.”
That addition is particularly important given Steven Finn is available less due to his England commitments.
He said: “The last couple of years, I had thought we would see a bit of Steven Finn, but as he is getting older, we will see less and less of him.
“It was important that we made sure our bowling resources were as strong as they could possibly be.”
As well as adding Harris, Middlesex have also made another notable move in adding Mark Ramprakash as batting coach.
Ramprakash has experience of a similar role, gained this winter when filling in for Graeme Thorpe with the England Performance Programme.
Fraser admitted: “We are chuffed to have Mark on board as our batting coach. We’ve had Mark O’Neil for the last few years and he has had a positive impact on the batting.
“Mark told us of his intention to stay at home next year, so we have been looking for a new one; we looked around and the person that stood out in every shape or form was the person closest to us, which was Mark (Ramprakash).
“He offers a wealth of experience and knowledge; I cannot think of anyone better to be responsible for the development of our batsman moving forward.
“I think Graeme Thorpe got England involved with the EPP and he has made a very positive impression in the sessions he has done.
“I know Mark very well from my playing day with Middlesex and England. I see someone who has the potential to be an outstanding coach with the way he talks about batting and the way he works with players.
“He is also going to be involved in some of the management of the team as well. It is a wider remit than just coming in and looking at the batting.”