On a day that ebbed and flowed, the home side will feel that they have had the better rub of the green on day one at Lord’s.
The match started in the way that most Middlesex fans are familiar with: two wickets falling in reasonably quick succession for not many runs. Sam Robson scored quickly from the off (hitting a beautifully checked drive down the ground for four off the first ball of the day) but he was dropped twice in the slips on his way to 50. It was not exactly a comfortable start to the day for fans of the Seaxes.
However, in cricket, there comes a moment when a batsman starts to look like he will never get out. Every delivery, you start to wonder where he’s going to find his next boundary as opposed to whether or not he will survive the next ball; Robson fell into this zone after finding his 50.
He was ably assisted at the crease by skipper Steve Eskinazi who never quite kicked into gear, but managed to rotate the strike and build a nice partnership with Robson, even if the latter did dominate the run-scoring.
Eventually, The third wicket stand was broken by allrounder Lewis Gregory as he trapped Eskinazi plum in front – it is not often you see a player walk after an LBW appeal but Stevie Eskinazi just knew. Having faced over 90 balls the stand-in captain will be disappointed to not have bothered the scorers more, but to spend as long as he did in the middle on a pitch that looks more challenging than Robson has made it seem will stand him in good stead for the remainder of the season.
Next in was youngster Robbie White but he again struggled. He managed 17 runs from his 60 balls but It seemed a matter of when not if the in-form Jack Leach would account for his wicket. The England slow left-armer looked controlled and potent, going at two an over (the lowest economy of any bowler) on a pitch and conditions that really should not have suited a spinner.
His scrappy innings was enough to help Robson to find his century though, meaning the English opener became the first player of the county season to cross the 100 mark. I am not one to exaggerate, so all I will say is that the confidence and composure of this knock was enough to spark conversations on the Twitter timeline about a return to the national set-up for Robson; similar age to Burns and a very similar average at test level. I am not saying it, of course, I am just saying it has been said…
Middlesex’s exciting allrounder Andersson was in next just before Tea, hitting back to back boundaries through the covers in a two-shot cameo, displaying why people are so excited about his potential. He is a player that would get into this Middlesex team for his bowling alone (he took 14 wickets at 17 in the Bob Willis trophy last year) but his stroke play is that of a specialist batsman.
After the interval, Andersson edged behind off the bowling of Davey but Robson showed no signs of slowing down. Much like a ship’s captain in a storm, he stayed stoic whilst his teammates fell around him. I doubt that there has been a more textbook display of how to score runs behind square and into the leg side and Somerset’s bowlers just seemed to have no answer to it.
That was until Lewis Gregory found a new ball in his hand. The right armer quickly dispatched with John Simpson who could only manage 11 runs, but more importantly, he finally sent Robson back to the hutch. A ball after a wide full toss that the form man flayed through the offside, he tempted Robson into driving at a full ball which flew to the hands of Tom Abell in the slips. It was a magnificent innings, probably second only to James Vince’s knock for Hampshire on the day, but Middlesex supporters will be wondering if his watch alone will be enough.
Toby Roland-Jones looked fit when he came to the crease, almost hitting the leather off one ball to the mid-wicket boundary for a two bounce four that Gregory dug-in just a bit too short. Tom Helm, not to be outdone by his bowling compatriot, also played some shots, the highlight of which being a checked drive straight down the ground into the pavilion boundary.
Gregory soon dealt with Helm as well though, Hildreth taking a smart catch low in the slips. That brought his figures to an impressive 17-4-54-4; a five-fer within reach.
At stumps, Middlesex had succumbed to 293-8 but they will be confident of getting over the 300 mark and gaining an extra all-important batting point. They will also be confident of their bowling attack prospering on what looked a tricky pitch to all but Sam Robson.
At times in the last five years, the Seaxes have resembled that famous Morecambe and Wise joke: they have all the right notes, but they just cannot seem to play them in the right order. When the top order scores runs, the middle order fails to accelerate the run-rate; when the bowlers keep the scores down, the batsmen fail to post a total.
If you had offered Middlesex a total over close to 300 on a green pitch, at Lord’s, in April, against this Somerset bowling attack, having been put in to bat they would have bitten your arm off. Now that they have it though, it does seem like somewhat of a wasted opportunity to make a statement about what this squad can manage against the very best in the English game having been away from the top for such a prolonged time.