ENGLAND star Andrew Strauss backed some of Middlesex's less heralded players to continue their Twenty20 success when the county bandwagon rolls into Uxbridge next week.
Middlesex, who have never been beyond the quarter-finals, take on defending champions Kent on Tuesday in what is shaping up to be a crucial fixture that could go a long way to deciding the winners of the South Division.
The Lord's based club beat Surrey on Monday to make it a perfect four wins from four and Kent, with only one defeat so far, appear to be their main threat in the race to qualify for
the last eight. And despite Middlesex including England's Owais Shah, who blasted 49 off 25 balls against New Zealand on Sunday, as well as Strauss himself and Ed Joyce, Strauss admitted their success has been down to lesser known players.
"I think the main thing is that we've got a very good bowling attack for Twenty20," the 31-year-old said yesterday (Tuesday). "Dirk Nannes has come from Australia and he was successful in their Twenty20 and we've got two very experienced spinners, who seem to hold sway in Twenty20.
"Shaun Udal and Murali Kartik vary their pace well and the bowling has been first rate so we've not had to chase big scores.
"We've had contributions from everyone with the bat but I've been really impressed by Eoin Morgan and I think he's got a really big future in the short form of the game.
"He's an intelligent batsman with all the shots but everyone has chipped in and I think that's the mark of a decent side, although it would be nice to get some 60s and 70s.
"Dawid Malan played brilliantly yesterday as well and for a youngster to see us home in those circumstances is great for him."
Strauss played several games for Uxbridge when he was trying to break into the county first team but he has not been back to Park Road since Middlesex beat Hampshire in the 2003 Twenty20 Cup and he is looking forward immensely to the fixture.
"I played quite a lot of club cricket there and it's always been a really good wicket to play on," added Strauss. "The Twenty20 competition is always an exciting one to play and I think Uxbridge will be no different.
"I remember it being a really stand out atmosphere with a lot of people there who maybe don't go to too many games.
"Kent's record is very good and they're playing reasonably well this year.
"I suppose with a 10-game qualification you can afford to lose the odd one but we don't want to start losing!"
Test regular Strauss is one of several players on the fringe of the England team for the shorter formats and with so much money coming into the sport from the Indian Twenty20 League and Sir Allen Stanford's millions he has work to do to get a slice of that action.
A record of two 50s in 24 first-class Twenty20 games and a best of 27 this year, is not going to make the 2005 Wisden cricketer of the year a millionaire anytime soon. And, while he is pleased to see Stanford's involvement, he was in no doubt that Test cricket must not fall by the wayside.
"The fact that there are people interested in putting money into the game is surely a good thing and hopefully that money will allow the sport to go from strength to strength," commented Strauss. "Anyone who has played the game will feel Test cricket is the ultimate test and I think there's room for both forms to flourish in the future.
"It tests you in so many ways - temperament, technique and bravery to a certain extent.
"Twenty20 tests some of those attributes but not to the same extent."
Middlesex play Sussex at Lord's tomorrow (Thursday), Kent on Friday and Hampshire on Sunday, before Kent come to Park Road on Tuesday (5.30pm).