Such has been the consistency of Nick Gubbins, it’s hard to know what you can even write about the 22-year-old which hasn’t been scribbled down thousands of times across the shires.
It’s that consistency which, perhaps, is the Middlesex opener’s most valued commodity. Becoming Mr. Reliable in a team featuring Sam Robson, Nick Compton and Dawid Malan is hardly the easiest task, but as he pulled Ryan Sidebottom to the fence for a fourth century of the season, you wondered if Angus Fraser had a new first name on the teamsheet.
Already boasting a temperament long unmatchable, Gubbins’ lunchtime was interrupted, unexpectedly, when he was presented his Middlesex cap on the outfield. By then he was three partners down, closing in on his own half-century.
You feel that, should this innings help Middlesex to their first title since 1993, he would have the freedom of the county, if it was one. Gubbins wasn’t even born the last time that this particular silverware was lifted.
And his innings today set Middlesex on their way. It was far from a chanceless display but, on an overcast day against a back-to-back title-winning Yorkshire side playing five fast bowlers, you wouldn’t really want that to be the case.
It seemed, as life always does with Gubbins, that this was his own game to play. Two deliciously crisp fours opened up his innings, all while the other end saw Robson out for a duck, lbw to Jack Brooks, who then fizzed one past Compton’s edge first ball.
Brooks’ spell was the perfect demonstrator to the touch of the batsman, then trapping Compton too without playing a shot, while Ryan Sidebottom – 38 years young – proved miserly with ten overs for as many runs. Factor in the ever-consistent – that word, again – Steven Patterson, and Tim Bresnan in arguably the form of his life and you’re faced with a problem again. What superlatives can you use for ‘DJ Gubbo’?
But cast your mind back to the season’s start. The campaign, both for Middlesex and the 22-year-old, was consistently inconsistent. The county were performing well with bat and ball, but six draws from the first six suggested that a title challenge would be scuppered through no fault of their own.
Gubbins himself was in the runs, falling in the 90s regularly, but a transformation to conversion has heralded its rewards. Four centuries and eight fifties to be precise, averaging beyond 60 for the season.
After lunch that was to carry on, littering what was far from a bad Yorkshire bowling display with an array of strokes, more often than not on the off-side, oozing with class.
For a while Gubbins’ efforts were, for the most part, keeping Middlesex in touch, but by the end of a day curtailed by bad light, it seemed they may have nosed in front both in match and title situation, with scoreboard pressure a job for another day.
Malan and Steve Eskinazi were to fall in that time, bowled off edges from David Willey and Brooks respectively, while Bresnan earned just rewards when John Simpson was pinned, walking before the finger even went up.
James Franklin came in and steadied the ship, but the day ultimately belonged to one man, unbeaten on 120 of his side’s 208 for five. There were hesitant moments – Adam Lyth shelled a simple chance at second slip, while a review may have seen him scuppered down the leg side off Bresnan – but a pull off Sidebottom into the vacant stand sealed another superb effort from a man billed as having a Test career ahead of him.
An England Lions tour to Sri Lanka and Afghanistan awaits in the meantime, but for now remains the chance of a first title in 23 years. With the 22-year-old leading the charge.