Cricket: Robson ton puts Middlesex on top
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Sam Robson’s first century of the season saw Middlesex get the better of the opening day of their Specsavers County Championship match with Derbyshire at Lord’s.
The former England opener ended a run drought with 134 – becoming Middlesex’s first century maker since May 6.
Tony Palladino (4-66) bowled the visitors back into contention with a spell of 4-3 in 15 balls.
But Max Holden (96 not out) was closing in on a first century in Middlesex colours as the hosts finished an enthralling day at 350-8, only the second time this season they have realised a fourth batting point.
Given Middlesex’s struggles with the bat this season it was no surprise to see them stuck in under cloudy skies for the sixth time in seven red-ball games at HQ this season.
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Understandably then it was a nervy start - 20 balls and the odd play and miss passed before the first run clicked up on the board.
Robson broke the shackles with two fours in an over off Palladino – the second boundary appearing to lift a season-load of weight from his shoulders as thereafter he settled down to play with increasing assurance.
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At the other end, left-hander Nick Gubbins found life more of a struggle, a spate of cameos having left him short of confidence.
Nevertheless, the pair compiled only their third half-century opening stand of the season, reaching 64 before Hardus Viljoen (2-74) made the breakthrough trapping Gubbins LBW.
It would be the visitors’ only wicket of the morning session as Robson moved smoothly to 50 off 83 balls with nine boundaries, ably supported by Stevie Eskinazi who had the honour of receiving his county cap at the start of the lunch interval.
There would be no 50 to accompany the honour, the South African-born wicketkeeper/batsman falling for 35, LBW to spinner Matthew Critchley.
Skipper Dawid Malan was next to go, a skittish innings of 16 ending when he aimed an ill-advised hook at Viljoen, the ball arrowing its way to the safe hands of Luis Reece at long-leg.
His dismissal more often than not this season would have heralded a collapse, but youngster Holden came in and looked composed from his first ball and as a result he and Robson regained the initiative.
Robson’s hundred arrived courtesy of a single to mid-on in the last over before tea, the applause from the Middlesex faithful seeing him raise his bat in delight and relief in equal measure.
The pair played with increasing authority at the start of the final session, raising the 250 – a figure reached only once previously in the first innings by the Lord’s tenants this season.
The century stand came at almost a run a minute and Holden’s 50 arrived shortly afterwards complete with six boundaries.
The dizzy heights of 300 were in sight when Palladino new ball in hand changed the complexion of the day.
A devastating spell began when he found the edge of Robson’s bat ending an otherwise chanceless innings and a stand of 132.
Tail up, Palladino struck again with his next ball, new man Robbie White get a thinner edge to Gary Wilson at first slip.
James Harris survived the hat-trick ball only to depart in Palladino’s next over, trapped on the back foot.
The hosts had subsided from 298-3 to 304-6 but Palladino wasn’t finished yet, getting another LBW shout upheld to remove Martin Andersson.
With the ball now doing plenty Holden was given a life when Wilson shelled a chance at first slip off Lockie Ferguson.
That scare survived, Middlesex briefly steadied the ship until James Fuller, having just hit Ferguson for six top-edged the next ball down to Critchley at third man.
Ethan Bamber though helped raise the 350 and kept alive hopes of a Holden century in the morning.