T20: Simpson welcomes De Villiers return to Middlesex
PUBLISHED: 17:39 23 August 2019 | UPDATED: 17:39 23 August 2019
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John Simpson is relishing the prospect of having AB de Villiers back at Middlesex for the final push towards the Vitality Blast knockout stages.
The South African legend, due back through the Grace Gates next week, was a revelation during five appearances earlier in the tournament, playing two match-winning knocks and making a sizeable contribution to a third win.
However, Simpson says little moments spent with individuals away from the bright lights in the middle on match days have been crucial too in the side's improvement.
"AB has been fantastic," he said. "To come out and play the way he did in the game against Essex and get 80 off not many balls was a phenomenal achievement and the game at Richmond was another incredible knock.
"You are just sitting on the sidelines watching a master at work, aren't you?
"He has been brilliant around the lads. He's come up to individuals and given them a few suggestions, or it might be just a pat on the back saying well played. It means a lot from somebody of that stature.
"He's mucked in and to come and have the impact that he's had is true testament to him and just shows what kind of character he is.
"We are looking forward to having him back for the last couple of games and hopefully the quarter-finals and onwards."
The Seaxes' wicketkeeper revealed he has personally had the chance to pick De Villiers' brains - though it seems not all his secrets are transferable.
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"I've quizzed him on a few bits and pieces like how he goes about constructing an innings and the way he moves around the crease," he continued.
"I've also asked him whether he practices those paddle sweeps of his, but he told me not really and that he just tries to hit the ball where the fielders aren't. That's pretty incredible because us mere mortals have to go out there and practice such things."
Simpson and co have struggled a little in De Villiers' recent absence, losing two of their last four games, including a thrashing at the hands of Hampshire at Lord's on Thursday.
And their final assignment before his return pitches them against Sussex at Uxbridge on Saturday.
The men from Hove have proved Middlesex's nemesis so far this season, beating them heavily in both County Championship fixtures as well as cantering home in the reverse Vitality Blast fixture earlier this month. However, they too have stalled since, losing their last two T20 games.
Simpson says the landscape has changed since the last time the clubs met in this format, with the Sharks having an enforced overhaul of their overseas stars which has seen Rashid Khan and Tymal Mills replaced by Aussie duo Alex Carey and Jason Behrendorff.
Therefore, he expects the clash to have a different dynamic about it, adding: "There is no doubt Sussex have hammered us in three games. There is no point in beating around the bush about that.
"They are a different team in T20 now without Rashid Khan and Tymal Mills. I think they have had Behrendorff come in and Carey, so the challenge they present has changed.
"Not having Khan's four overs of spin in the middle means the game will be different and Behrendorff presents a contrast in style to Mills.
"We have got to go out there and hit them hard. They lost too tonight, so both sides will be looking to rebound."