Fraser looks to Middlesex youth to raise game

Angus Fraser has set his sights on a long-awaited return to a major Lord's final, hoping the prospect of progressing in the NatWest Trophy will spur his younger Middlesexcolleagues on to greater levels of performance.

Angus Fraser has set his sights on a long-awaited return to a major Lord's final, hoping the prospect of progressing in the NatWest Trophy will spur his younger Middlesexcolleagues on to greater levels of performance.

The Middlesex vice-captain is well accustomed to big games for England, having played 46 Tests and 42 one-day internationals, but his last experience of a major final at cricket's headquarters was Warwickshire's four-wicket defeat of the Londoners in the NatWest Trophy 11 years ago. That defeat followed Middlesex's three-wicket victory over Worcestershire the yearbefore, but since then Fraser has had to rely on Englandappearances to provide the rush of the big game.

As they prepare for their quarter-final against Hampshire at Lord's today, it is that lack of big-match experience which Fraser believes has been a factor in Middlesex underperforming in the intervening years. "To go 11 seasons without being at Lord's for a final is a long time for a club of our size," he said. "With the players we have in the side, we should have been more competitive than we have been and we've underperformed - we can't get away from that.

"In the last two years we've had four Test players in the side and had four players who have gone on A tours. So you've a lot of players who have represented England at some level and you would expect more from a side with players that have done that much.

"We have a squad that some counties would be envious of, and why we haven't performed is down to us players - we can't blame anyone else."

Upheaval behind the scenes has not helped Middlesex's cause in recent years, with their coach John Buchanan recruited from Australia and then released after one season and Mark Ramprakash resigning the captaincy last summer. But after the shock of finishing in the lower half of the Championship last season, consigning them to a Second Division struggle this summer, Fraser now sees signs of progress - an upward momentum he believes would increase should they reach the NatWest final.

"If we can reach the final it's something that will benefit this team enormously. To have the experience of walking out at Lord's with 30,000 people in the ground I think would do them the world of good," he said.

"I'm sure it would make them want even more of it. It is a great thrill and it's very hard to describe - a lot of our younger players are guessing what it would be like.

"If we do get there I'm sure they would then be able to say they wanted a bit more of this and then I think they would possibly work a bit harder."

Fraser will be hoping his team can repeat Sunday's National League victory over Hampshire - and Middlesex are set to field an unchanged side.

The same cannot be said for Hampshire, who are likely to be missing their captain Robin Smith (hamstring) and his fellow front-line batsman Giles White (calf), who were both injured at Portsmouth on Sunday. Derek Kenway and Lawrence Prittipaul stand by, and Alan Mullally will definitely return after his stint with England.

In today's other last-eight tie Warwickshire face Glamorgan at Edgbaston with Bob Woolmer hoping for a return to form following the National League defeat by Durham.

He said: "We didn't perform well against Durham. We're having an up-and-down season, so let's hope that changes against Glamorgan."

Glamorgan are the form side in the Second Division and will probably be unchanged from the team that won a fourth four-day game in succession against Northamptonshire at the weekend.

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