Wilfred Rhodes’ 4,204 first class wickets may be beyond the reach of any modern cricketer, given the demands of the multi format game. Nonetheless, the 1000 wicket milestone is a rare one, to be cherished for any bowler. James Anderson reached it last year, courtesy of a Heino Kuhn edge at his Old Trafford home.
Middlesex’s Tim Murtagh enters the 2022 County season with 899 first class wickets to his name and whilst notching up the 900th is his immediate aim and will be a moment for great celebration, Tim told me he sees no reason why that magical 1000 should not be within his reach. “Why not, I will always target at least 50 per season” he said. Age should certainly not stand in Tim’s way. Forty-one, he may be this year, but “feels in top shape and raring to go”. A Lords morning with a bit of cloud cover vs Derbyshire could well prove to be the perfect Murtagh canvas on which to etch wicket number 900. After all, Tim is a man with a test 5fer at the Home of Cricket and nobody knows better how to utilise the conditions and that famous slope, the gradient of which is immortalised in Guerilla jingle form as ‘1.3 Tim Murtaghs’. Although, oddly, this was news to Tim when he heard the jingle for the first time yesterday, much to his amused approval.
From there, Tim is in prime position to move in on that 1000 mark. Providing the essential allies of fitness and form remain squarely on his side, Murtagh is in pole position from a field that includes luminaries Stuart Broad (854), Dilruwan Perera (808), Neil Wagner (781) and R Ashwin (684).
It’s fair to say that entering his 15th Middlesex season, Tim is raring to go and excited by the blend of youth and experience with which Middlesex hope to achieve Division Two promotion. An attack that can permutate its pace options blending the experience of Tim himself, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Toby Roland Jones and Tom Helm with the emerging promise of Ethan Bamber, Blake Cullen and Martin Anderson is certainly one to savour. Tim is clearly excited by the emergence of both Cullen and Anderson, feeling that this could well be the season for both to step up. Anderson has already claimed the notable scalp of Alistair Cook in pre – season action.
Appointed club captain last year, Tim’s time at the reigns coincided with a distinct upturn in the team’s form. However, he believes the need for the experienced players to encourage and support their younger team mates is not new. “To be honest, I’ve felt that was in my job description for the last 10 years, in spirit if not in writing” he said. Peter Handscomb will return to lead the team on the field, but can count on ample support and advice from Tim and others.
Jingle by Jeff Perkins
Whilst there is hope that as England’s ‘red ball reset’ takes shape, there may be some more batting friendly tracks on which potential Test players can hone their craft, Tim feels this “can only be a good thing for the game” and is excited by an even contest between bat and ball. Undoubtedly buoyed by the good feeling around the Middlesex camp and focused on that 1000 wicket mark over the next two seasons, he is confident that only the first of those two seasons will be in Division Two. Personal goals and club goals will have perfectly aligned if wicket 1000 is a Division One wicket.