Ton-up Eskinazi makes mark for Middlesex on opening day

Middlesex's Stephen Eskinazi (left) celebrates reaching his century against Derbyshire at Lord's

Middlesex's Stephen Eskinazi (left) celebrates reaching his century against Derbyshire at Lord's - Credit: PA

Stephen Eskinazi’s stylish century propelled Middlesex into a strong position against a depleted Derbyshire attack on the opening day of the LV= Insurance County Championship.

Eskinazi struck an accomplished knock of 118 – his eighth Championship hundred and his first at Lord’s in five years – as he and teenage opener Josh de Caires shared a second-wicket stand of 186.

De Caires, the 19-year-old son of former England captain Michael Atherton, registered his maiden first-class half-century in an innings of 80 that helped to lay the foundations for the home side to post 307 for four.

Middlesex's Josh De Caires in batting action against Derbyshire at Lord's

Middlesex's Josh De Caires in batting action against Derbyshire at Lord's - Credit: PA

It was a difficult day for Billy Godleman’s team, who opted to put Middlesex in but quickly lost the services of on-loan seamer Ryan Sidebottom, pulling up with a suspected hamstring problem just 1.1 overs into his Derbyshire debut.

Mark Stoneman got Middlesex’s campaign off to a positive start after Godleman had invited them to bat, clipping Sam Conners’ opening delivery firmly to the square-leg boundary.

However, the left-hander was first to depart, with Derbyshire’s two overseas players combining to remove him for 12 in the fourth over as Shan Masood dived forward at midwicket to hold a catch off Suranga Lakmal.

The Seaxes’ second-wicket pair dug in, with Eskinazi quick to punish loose bowling and displaying excellent timing and placement – exemplified by a sweet straight drive to the boundary off Anuj Dal to raise the 50 partnership.

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There was a let-off for De Caires on 21, when he carved a widish delivery from Conners to point, but the ball whistled through Dal’s fingers and Derbyshire’s four remaining bowlers continued to toil after lunch.

Eskinazi brought up his half-century from 80 balls in the first over of the afternoon session, while his junior partner took a little longer to reach that landmark but did so in style, cutting Lakmal off the back foot for four.

De Caires’ watchful style took his stay at the crease beyond four hours before Conners tempted him outside off stump and Brooke Guest gratefully snapped up the opportunity to end the partnership prior to tea.

Lakmal claimed his second wicket when Eskinazi’s outside edge carried to Wayne Madsen at slip, but Robbie White and Max Holden maintained Middlesex’s momentum, joining forces in a stand of 58.

Holden (35) looked well set, only to perish reverse sweeping off-spinner Alex Thomson, but White (40 not out) and Jack Davies ensured a third batting point was safely secured before stumps.

Eskinazi said: “Fantastic application from the boys today – it couldn’t have gone much better, but if we want to start being the ruthless side we’ve talked about, we’ve got to stack days on top of days.

“I’ve had some challenges over the last couple of years so it’s nice to put the side in a good position, but I know it’s just a start. I think we made them work hard and I’m sure they’re going to do the same to us.

“Joshy (De Caires) is a really level-headed young fellow, he’s not fazed by situations. I think he probably found out yesterday or the day before he was in the side, to open the batting at Lord’s and he looked assured, he looked like he’d maybe played 100 games.

“The surface was pretty good. The longer Joshy and I went on, the easier it got, which it definitely does do here.”