Chris Rogers confessed to a hunch this week it might be time to launch Paul Stirling into Middlesex’s County Championship charge.
Stirling has forged a reputation as an explosive hitter in white-ball cricket, especially on the international stage, but only made one four-day appearance last season.
He appeared poised for his four-day bow for 2014 after being named in the 13 for this week’s clash with Sussex at Merchant Taylors his chance to shine was taken away when the game was abandoned without a ball being bowled.
However, judging by Rogers’ comments in the wake of the washout, opportunity will knock again in tomorrow’s Championship clash with Durham for the 23-year-old with five one-day international hundreds to his credit.
The Middlesex skipper and Aussie test opener is backing his young charge to transfer those skills to the longer format.
“I am a big fan of Paul,” he said. “If you can play good quality bowling it does not matter what format of the game it is in.
“I have a bit of a hunch with Paul that he could be a very good four-day player, so I quite like having him in the squad.”
Assuming Stirling can make the transition in the game at Durham it will not be a moment too soon for the tenants of Lord’s who look likely to lose Sam Robson to England Test duty before the next County Championship fixture at Nottinghamshire in mid-June.
Not that the right-hander is a like for like swap with Rogers seeing him as a destructive force against the old ball in the middle-order.
“At some stage we might lose Sam – I’d expect that and so other guys are going to have to step up and if Paul does that we are going to be a team to be feared,” he said
“If I was a captain of an opposition county I would not want to see Paul Stirling coming in to bat number seven as he is a guy who can take the game away from you.”
Middlesex's record up in the northern-most parts of the country is not the best.
Director of cricket Angus Fraser was still wearing his whites alongside Phil Tufnell when they last won at what is now the Emirates ICG in 2002, while since returning to the championship’s top tier they lost a low scoring game in 2012 before playing out a rain affected draw there last season.
The reigning champions are yet to win home or away this term and while Rogers expects another tough trip he knows his team is the one hitting its straps at present with a fast-bowling unit to be feared.
He said: “Durham are a good side. They are the reigning champions and they play well at their ground so it is going to be a tough task, but we have guys in form.
“I’m particularly happy Toby Roland-Jones is in form because with Steven Finn and Tim Murtagh as well it means the opposition batsmen have got their work cut out for them.
“If Graham Onions plays for Durham our batsmen need to be right on their game and a lot of them have got some good runs, so I’m positive about how we can perform up there this week and think we will give a better showing than perhaps we have previously.”