Newman under pressure to perform
Scott Newman is embarking on the biggest chapter of his career as he fights for a new contract at Middlesex.
The left-handed batsman played 13 matches in Middlesex’s LV= County Championship promotion campaign and now has the opportunity to ply his trade in Division One again after previously enjoying spells in the top flight with former employers Surrey and Nottinghamshire, the latter on loan in 2009.
However, the 32-year-old has a major task on his hands to cement a place in Neil Dexter’s first-team plans as new arrivals at the club have provided strong competition for places at the top of the order.
And with Newman entering the final year of his contract, he knows how important next term will be as he aims to prolong his career at Lord’s.
“Firstly, I have to break into the team because of the new signings and how well Sam Robson played last year,” he told ecb.co.uk.
“I’m under pressure because it’s the last year of my contract. There is pressure on me to stay in the side and stay in a job so there is a lot riding on next year.
“I have got to use all my experience and, if anything, just enjoy it as if it is my last year and see what happens.
"I want to be better than I ever have been. If I do and still fall short, then so be it. I want to be more consistent and I’m looking forward to the challenge ahead.”
Middlesex have invested cleverly during the off season as they try to build a team capable of holding their own in the top tier.
The batting department was boosted by the arrival of former Kent opener Joe Denly, while spinner Ollie Rayner turned his loan spell from Sussex into a permanent deal and all-rounder Ollie Wilkin signed a two-year summer contract.
Steven Finn, Eoin Morgan and Andrew Strauss are likely to be heavily involved with England for much of the season so to have a big squad, Newman insists, is a bonus.
Asked about new signings and injuries, he replied: "They will strengthen the young squad. We now have the ability and the guys are coming of age.
"It is unfortunate Finny is doing so well because we won’t see him so much but we will hopefully have (Gareth) Berg and (Toby) Roland-Jones fully fit.
“It will be good to have a year where we have a little bit of luck with injuries because the last couple of years we have had players being injured and coming in and out of the team.
“You always need a bit of luck with injuries, especially those who are playing well, and hopefully that will take a little bit of pressure off (Tim) Murtagh and (Corey) Collymore because they bowled a lot of overs last year.
“We don’t need them bowling that many overs again and hopefully guys like Steven Crook and Ollie Rayner will come in and pick up wickets.”
Ireland international Paul Stirling pledged his future to the club in October and Australian Robson enhanced his reputation with some valuable contributions last season. Despite an overcrowded top order, Newman sees the healthy competition as a positive that will benefit the side in the future.
“As long as we stay consistent on how we are picking the side then it can be a good thing,” he added.
“I think myself and Joe can be very versatile in where we bat in the line-up and Sam has been good so he may start. We will have to see at the first game, see who is in nick and see what happens.
“If I’m not picked, then all I can do is score runs and try to push the guys in the team to get back in there.”
As Newman is now a senior player in the squad, he has been refreshed to see so many emerging youngsters advancing through the ranks and taking their chances in the first team.
“When you're at a club, the future is about the youngsters and making sure they are ready,” he said.
“John Simpson has been marvellous for us and I think he was very unlucky not to get on an England Performance Programme because he deserved that and will become close to playing for England as a wicketkeeper-batsman.
“Adam London will be a good cricketer in the future and also Toby Roland-Jones so there is a lot of talent about and I think the squad can compete with everybody in the country.”
Promoted sides have often found the going tough in their first season in the top flight.
But with the additions they have made and the confidence they hold heading into the new campaign, Newman believes Middlesex can take Division One by storm.
“Because of the prize money, there is more pressure to do well and stay in the top flight,” he said.
“I think if we do what we did last year, in terms of how we went about our cricket, we can really push for the top three rather than just survive. I really think we can give it a real go and win it.”