EXTRA responsibility has sat very comfortably on the shoulders of Tim Murtagh.
Far from weighing him down the 26-year-old fast medium bowler has revelled in leading the Middlesex attack in the absence of Chris Silverwood and Alan Richardson.
Murtagh has responded to the loss of his injured teammates by becoming the leading wicket-taker in the County Championship and he aims to add to his 30 scalps when Middlesex take on Northamptonshire in their next four-day game, at Park Road, Uxbridge, starting on Sunday.
In fact the 6ft 2ins seamer is well on the way to eclipsing the 42 wickets he took in the whole of last season in what was his best campaign to date, after which he was named Middlesex's joint player of the season.
"I'm really pleased so far," said Murtagh, who claimed his maiden 10-wicket haul in the last game with Essex, which Middlesex won by an innings. "I didn't start off that well.
"I didn't feel I was bowling as well as I could have done but I've been given the chance to take the new ball and I suppose the extra responsibility has helped me improve my game.
"I've been pretty pleased with the way it's gone personally but I've been backed up well.
"Danny Evans took six wickets in his first game this year and Steve Finn has bowled consistently well.
"And Shaggy (Shaun Udal) has done a lot better than a lot of people thought he would - he's been a revelation.
"We've pretty much had to cope the whole season without a full bowling attack with Silvers and Richo missing, and (Murali) Kartik not available for the start of the season. Even the guys that have come in have got injured.
"I suppose last year I was almost the third or fourth seamer behind Richardson and Silverwood so I've bowled more this year.
"There haven't been experienced guys to fall back on and Ed Smith has given me the ball when he would probably have given it to those guys last year."
Middlesex endured a troubled start to the season and there were rumblings of discontent from the members when the team won only two games of any description before late May. A humbling eight-wicket defeat at Essex in the Friends Provident Trophy was the last straw.
Since then there has been a remarkable turnaround as the side climbed to third in County Championship Division Two and won its first four Twenty20 Cup ties.
"We just weren't playing very good cricket at the start of the season," Murtagh admitted. "And then we suffered those injuries in the bowling, but everyone's starting to play better now.
"We had a long chat after getting hammered at Chelmsford and decided that was rock bottom.
"We were a better side than that and we needed to show it.
"We regrouped and we've played pretty good cricket since then."
Silverwood and Richardson are not far from returning to fitness, although probably not in time for the visit of Northants, yet with Middlesex riding high and Murtagh in the form of his life, he could be forgiven for hoping they are out of action for just a little while longer.