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Five things we've learned so far

Middlesex take a hiatus from playing at Lord's as England move in for the first Test against New Zealand. Here's five things we've learned about the Panthers so far this season.

1. They're genuine title contenders

The pre-season talk looks justified, with two thumping wins and a courageous draw with Surrey which answered many questions about the depth of the batting line-up.

Few can argue with their second place after three games - just two and a half points behind leaders Durham, who have played a game more.

It's early days, but with few other sides making such a solid start to the summer, it seems certain that Middlesex will be closer to the top of the table come September than the bottom.

2. But, they'll miss Chris Rogers...

Who wouldn't? Rogers has been one of the most impressive performers in the county game for a number of years, and his double-century against Surrey - particularly during a final-day onslaught - was as sublime a display as you'll see at Lord's this summer.

Sam Robson's form will also encourage batting coach Mark Ramprakash, while the likes of Joe Denly and John Simpson have made decent starts to 2013.

But it's Rogers' position as the "leader of the pack" which makes him so valuable to Angus Fraser and the four LV= County Championship matches he misses whilst on Ashes duty will be circled in red ink by their rivals.

Watch: Ramprakash cool on losing Rogers

3. Toby Roland-Jones is on England's radar

A match-winning six-wicket haul in the opening match against Nottinghamshire and a hat-trick against Derbyshire in the next fixture were enough for the young seamer to earn a call-up to the England Lions team to face New Zealand at Grace Road this week.

The 25-year-old doesn't naturally catch the eye in the same way as his teammate Steven Finn, but is quick enough to trouble batsmen and bowls a natural international length.

England's settled attack means he's unlikely to get anywhere near the first team this summer, but 145 wickets at 20.76 in first-class cricket hints at someone who wouldn't let his country down.

4. Spin remains a concern

Ollie Rayner might have felt a little less disappointed at missing out on selection for the fixture against Surrey given the dominance of bat over ball, but it was a puzzling decision to play four seamers given the good weather forecast.

Paul Stirling had a poor game with the bat as Rayner's replacement and didn't look anywhere near a first choice spinner with the ball, but Fraser may be tinkering with the balance of his team ready to accomodate injured left-arm spinner Ravi Patel.

Whatever the reasoning, a spell of hot dry weather remains Middlesex's biggest selection headache.

5. Their one-day team needs work

Harsh, considering there's only been one match so far, and that Middlesex have performed ably in 40 over cricket the past two summers, but they looked way off the pace in their opening fixture against Glamorgan.

A lack of variety with the ball (albeit in the face of a spectacular Marcus North barrage) and the absence of an Eoin Morgan figure to compliment the brutal Sitrling in the middle order are the obvious concerns from the opener.

But with four-day glory surely the number one priority and Morgan and Adam Voges ready to bolster the t20 team, the YB40 understandably falls at the foot of the current priority list.

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