It took just 21 morning session runs for Sam Robson’s England credentials to come cropping up. At least that was the whispers of a handful as cricket returned resplendently to Lord’s for Middlesex and Warwickshire.
“Just look at that drive,” instructed one particular patron as Robson drew runs from a pin-point off-side shot. “You tell me that’s not England quality.”
One good innings does not make an England player, but as the cliché goes, you can’t make runs in the pavilion. Nick Compton found that out when guiding Chris Wright to point from ball one.
Take nothing away from Robson – to bat through Day One at Lord’s is no mean feat, launching an innings that at least gives selectors food for thought in the weeks ahead.
His unbeaten 175 was all the more impressive given Warwickshire elected to bowl first. Ian Bell, granted the opportunity under new regulations, seemed slightly perplexed by blue skies and a green tinge on the Lord’s track, choosing to use his new privilege to send Middlesex in.
The confusion didn’t end there as Bell watched his side, led by Keith Barker fresh from his pre-lunch five against Hampshire last time out, fail to hit their stride.
On a pitch giving very little, the bowlers gave much of the same, failing to hit the line and length required to stop Robson and Nick Gubbins picking off boundaries with aplomb. By lunch, with Jeetan Patel and Jonathan Trott already used, the decision seemed less careless and more reckless.
It was a bowling display ready-made for Robson to flourish having not scored a century since May. His 2015 average of 31 was mercilessly mocked by a poleaxing of Trott to the rope from the last over of the wicketless first session.
The fact the first genuine appeal came 26 minutes after luncheon tells you all you need to know of Warwickshire in the field. Gifted cloud cover after the break, Gubbins, who unassumedly joined 50 with his fellow opener, was rapped twice on the pads to Oliver Hannon-Dalby to no avail.
Gubbins seemed to lose a touch of fluency upon reaching his half-century, a sixth in first-class cricket, almost succumbing to a hook that looped down towards third man and out of harm’s way.
At the other end and given an opportunity to flourish, Robson did just that. Devoid of any testing short-ball bowling, the seven-Test man looked remarkably at ease for a player seemingly fighting for his international career. “Score runs,” said Alastair Cook of the Test wannabees. That he certainly did.
With a maiden hundred of his own for the taking, Gubbins on 68 could only guide Wright to the slips before Compton perished at point in un-Comptonesque fashion, playing at a delivery he could have left and falling victim to a sharp snaffle by Hain behind square.
By that point Robson had already reached his triple, bullied Rikki Clarke for three fours in the over before nervously scratching his way over the mark.
While the Warwickshire bowlers improved as the day went on, they could hardly have done much worse than their opening spells. Barker seemed to find the form that saw him rip wonders at the Ageas Bowl, bowling both last season’s accumulator Dawid Malan and Adam Voges, a man with a Test average of 95 behind him, to threaten to redress the balance of the day.
But the Lord’s opener ultimately belonged to Robson, a man who seems to enjoy Warwickshire, making his 215* First Class best against the same outfit. A drive of supreme elegance in the dying embers of the day suggests he’s after plenty more.
Whisper it quietly, but it was the sort of knock that got him noticed first time around.