Robson ton denies Essex control
Middlesex 316 for 6 v Essex
Opener Sam Robson celebrated his first County Championship outing of the season by batting throughout the day to score 136 as Middlesex reached 316 for 6 in their duel against Essex at Chelmsford.
The 21-year-old right-hander was brought into the side in the absence of Andrew Strauss, who will be away on England duty on Thursday, and the out-of-form Scott Newman. And he showed his appreciation by once again underlining his liking for the Essex attack, his only other Championship century coming when the sides met at Lord's two years ago.
Robson has so far punctuated his innings with 14 boundaries and kept a cool head when Graham Napier was threatening to destroy the innings. Fresh from his record-breaking 16 sixes in the last match against Surrey, the Essex seamer showed he could also be a destructive force with the ball when he returned for a second spell with Middlesex situated on 82 for one.
In the space of 13 deliveries he removed Dan Housego, Dawid Malan and Neil Dexter without conceding a run. But then Robson, who had earlier shared in a half-century opening stand with Chris Rogers - who was to become a victim of Ravi Bopara when he chopped on - was to find a reliable partner in Jamie Dalrymple.
They won back the initiative with a partnership of 103 in 29 overs, which finally came to an end when Napier returned for another spell. Napier found enough bounce and hostility to have Dalrymple caught in the slips by Matt Walker to end an entertaining contribution of 52 which contained seven fours and a six and arrived from 81 deliveries.
But any hopes Essex might have entertained of making further quick inroads into the innings were thwarted by another century partnership, this time John Simpson providing Robson with support. The pair rarely suffered a moment of anxiety while putting on 122 in 36 overs and it needed the arrival of the second new ball to separate them.
Again it was the impressive Napier who made the breakthrough when he breached the defences of Simpson after he had made 65, with eight boundaries. Napier finished the day with the magnificent figures of 5 for 43 from 20 overs, in complete contrast to 17-year-old Reece Topley who finished wicketless after spending the early part of the morning sitting his Business Studies examination at Royal Hospital School in Holbrook, Suffolk.
The exam lasted for two hours before he was picked up by his father at 10am and arrived at the ground only minutes before taking the new ball. He has so far sent down 16 overs while conceding 80 runs - and is no doubt feeling that his exam was far easier than his attempts to remove Middlesex batsmen.