Centurions leads Middlesex in strong opening
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Robson and Stirling dominate Yorskhire attack
England’s forgotten Test opener Sam Robson hit a season’s best 152 while Paul Stirling posted a maiden championship century as Middlesex reached 337-4 to dominate the opening day of their Specsavers County Championship match with Yorkshire.
A Lord’s crowd approaching almost 4,000 enjoyed the dominance of bat over ball as third-wicket partners Robson and Stirling batted 45 overs – including the entire mid-session – in adding 187 on yet another placid pitch at the ‘Home of Cricket’.
Sydney-born Robson, who won the last of his 7 Test caps against India in August 2014, batted throughout the hottest day of the year to date to reap his 18 boundaries and ensure that the title-chasing visitors will have to play at their absolute best to force any sort of positive result over the remaining three days.
Batting first after their side won the toss, home openers Nick Compton and Robson posted 64 for the first wicket in the face of some reasonable new-ball bowling from Ryan Sidebottom and Jack Brooks.
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Robson posted the first boundary after 30 minutes when he rocked back and latched onto a short one from Brooks to find the ropes at extra cover, while at the Pavilion End Sidebottom, although frugal, was guilty of bowling too wide to be at his most effective.
Compton equalled his season’s best of 22 but then pushed with hard hands at one from Steven Patterson to feather a catch through to Andrew Hodd behind the stumps.
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First change bowler Ben Coad enjoyed no luck from the Nursery End but Brooks might have struck with his first ball of a new spell when Robson, on 31, drove back firm and low only for the bowler to spill the tough chance.
Brooks saw another chance go begging when Alex Lees, diving full-length to his right in the gully, downed a one-handed catch off Stevie Eskinazi, who had yet to get off the mark.
Brooks opted for a more direct route to wicket-taking four balls later to peg back Eskinazi’s off pole via the inside edge as the Middlesex right-hander offered a crab-like defensive prod.
Robson reached a deserved 81-ball 50 soon after lunch as he and Stirling went on to dominate the mid-session. In searing heat, Yorkshire introduced England wrist-spinner Adil Rashid and off-spinner Adam Lyth but all to no avail as the third-wicket partners added an unbroken 153 through to tea.
Soon after the resumption, Robson – in only his fourth start of an injury ravaged season – late cut Rashid for three to reach his second century this summer from 184 balls and with 12 boundaries.
Then Stirling, who had given Robson a 36-run start, reached his maiden championship century from 119 balls, hitting 15 fours and a six into the Allen Stand to move past his previous best of 85, scored against Somerset here last summer.
It was Stirling’s first hundred for two years, his four other first-class hundreds had all been for Ireland, and it came four years after his championship debut for Middlesex.
Yorkshire’s wait for a breakthrough came to an end after 45 overs when Stirling departed lbw for 111 after aiming an ambitious pull to a Rashid top-spinner. Middlesex skipper James Franklin marched out to help Robson see off the second new ball and raise their side’s third batting bonus point but, with his score on 17, he had his off stump pegged back by Sidebottom, just two deliveries after surviving the veteran left-armer’s prolonged lbw appeal.
It proved Yorkshire’s final success of a long, hot day in the dirt.
Middlesex went into the game without Nick Gubbins and Tom Helm, on England A duty, while Yorkshire, also hampered by full England calls, gave a first-class debut to teenage batsman Harry Brook.