The rise and rise of Twenty20 cricket may eventually sound the death knell for the County Championship, according to some observers.

But Middlesex aren't having any of it - they have made promotion back to the County Championship top flight their number one target for the season.

The Seaxes just missed out on going back up last year having been relegated at the end of the previous campaign.

Promotion in the Pro40 League helped to soften the blow, but head coach Toby Radford is adamant there will be no such thing as a consolation prize this time around.

For him, the short form of the game will take second billing to the four-day game this year.

He said: "Promotion in the County Championship is our benchmark and number one priority.

"That's what the committee says we should be concentrating on, and what we as players and coaches have been saying.

"So no-one is under any illusions it needs to be achieved, and I'm confident we can do that with the squad we have got. There's plenty of quality here."

Middlesex's promotion bid got underway yesterday with the first day of their opening Division Two clash with Leicestershire at Grace Road.

And having sorted out their failing bowling attack last year, Radford reckons its now time for their batsmen to step up to the plate.

Too often in 2007, the much-vaunted front five failed to produce the volume of runs necessary to put the bowlers in a position to press for victory.

"At times last year, especially early season, we didn't really score enough runs first innings," admitted Radford.

"The aim is to start the season a bit sharper, and get some wins under our belt straight away."

Several men key to the task of run-making played themselves into form in the three-day game with Oxford University, abandoned as a draw on Monday.

Veteran wicket-keeper David Nash, back to full fitness after his illness last season, struck an unbeaten ton, while Ed Smith hit 88 and Billy Godleman followed his century in the friendly with Surrey with 49.

Eion Morgan hit 61 in the same match, but with Andrew Strauss and Owais Shah allowed to play by England and Ed Joyce back from captaining the MCC, it may not be enough for him to face the Foxes.

One man missing from the bowling unit for the next six to eight weeks will be Alan Richardson.

The Middlesex quick bowler, who could be on the verge of a full England call-up, suffered a recurrence of an ankle problem in the season's first warm-up game with Essex at Chelmsford.