MIDDLESEX are bidding to unearth London's hidden cricket talent.
The Panthers' director of cricket, Angus Fraser, and director of development, Phil Knappett, have thrown their weight behind The Wisden City Cup, an initiative they hope will unearth a rough diamond.
The project, brainchild of Wisden Cricket Almanac editor Scyld Berry, has seen trials for 16 to 25-year-olds held across the capital for the past month.
Those successful will play for one of four sides representing the four compass points of London in a special Twenty20 tournament later this month.
The best individual players will be invited for trials with Middlesex, while the best XI to emerge from the league will play the full Middlesex side in a Twenty20 clash later in the year. The hope is they will unearth another Billy Godleman character, who had the mental nous to make the grade, despite his school not taking an interest in cricket.
Knappett said: "If you think of Britain's best boxers over the years, many of them came from underprivileged backgrounds, but were street-wise and had the mental toughness and will to win.
"Billy is a good Middlesex example of the character we're looking for. He was lucky his dad took him around some places to get the right coaching and he had the mental strength to cope with the demands of playing adult cricket from an early age.
"Kids who have come down the traditional cricket route may have good technique, but can be much flakier when it comes to the mental side of the game."
Knappett stressed that finding new bowlers was the county's priority. And it seems the project is already bearing fruit, with one early trialist a spectacular success.
Knappett added: "One boy turned up not connected to any youth system at all, but he bowled really quickly.
"We took him down to the academy and he now might play in a second XI game in a few weeks' time, so this is proper fast-tracking of talent."
Meanwhile, Shaun Udal's men are still one off the bottom in the County Championship after their late victory bid against arch-rivals Surrey came up short.
Trailing by seven runs after the first innings, Nic Compton's first Championship century for three years helped Middlesex set 240 in 44 overs.
The Brown Caps showed no interest in the run chase, but two wickets apiece for Steven Finn and Mural Karmic caused a few alarms before Surrey closed on 99-5.