Under Mike Brearley’s captaincy, Middlesex became the dominant force in county cricket in both long and short formats, winning the County Championship outright in 1976 and 1980, and sharing the title in 1977.
They also won the Gillette Cup in both 1977 and 1980. The team’s success was founded upon its bowling strength. Following his success on West Indies 1976 tour of England, the fearsome Barbadian paceman Wayne Daniel joined Mike Selvey in a potent new-ball partnership, supplemented by spin bowlers Phil Edmonds and John Emburey. The attack was even stronger for 1980. Fearing the loss of spearhead Daniel to the touring West Indies’ squad, the county secured the services of South African fast-medium bowler Vintcent van der Bijl. When Daniel was overlooked by the West Indies selectors, Middlesex found themselves in possession of one of the most devastating new-ball partnerships ever to grace county cricket.
Brearley and the experienced Clive Radley were the core of the team’s batting. Available for the whole season after stepping down as England captain, Brearley was Middlesex’s leading run-scorer with 1,282 runs and Radley was close behind. The 23 year-old Mike Gatting augmented his growing reputation with centuries against Surrey and Yorkshire and an average of 50, although England calls restricted his availability. Yet more young players came through, not least wicket-keeper Paul Downton who cemented a place as Brearley’s opening partner, and Barbadian-born Roland Butcher, whose aggressive strokeplay earned him a spot on the winter tour to his native West Indies, where he became England’s first black Test cricketer.
Middlesex took the 1980 Championship by storm. A seven-wicket win over Somerset at Taunton at the beginning of June took them to the top of the table, a position they maintained to the end of the season, despite a minor stutter at the beginning of August when a batting collapse against Leicestershire and a remarkable match-winning innings by Gloucestershire’s Mike Procter brought them their only defeats of the season. Their Gillette Cup campaign began with a comfortable first round win over Ireland and then wins over Nottinghamshire, Worcestershire and Sussex took them to the final. Their bowling was again very much to the fore: Nottinghamshire mounted the stiffest resistance making 190 for 7 from their 60 overs. All of the others were bowled out with overs to spare.
In the final, Surrey too were bowled out, for 201 off the last ball of the innings. Middlesex cruised to the target with more than six overs in hand, Brearley leading the way with 96 not out. They became the first county to win the double of the County Championship and Gillette Cup.