County news

Robson hundred makes history

David Hopps

April 1, 2012

Comments: 26 | Text size: A | A

Sam Robson started positively for Middlesex at the top of the order, Gloucestershire v Middlesex, County Championship, Division Two, Bristol, June 28, 2010
Sam Robson struck the earliest first-class hundred in England © PA Photos

It would have sounded like an April Fool to the cricketers of yesteryear, but it is a fact: Sam Robson, Middlesex's Australian-born batsman, has made the earliest first-class hundred ever witnessed in the UK - and he did it before March was out.

Robson struck a century on the opening day of the match between Middlesex and Durham MCCU at Merchant Taylor's School in Northwood as counties revelled in balmy early-Spring weather.

It was all but certain that a record would be set as five first-class matches began on the last day of March. There were seven hundreds in all as the counties warmed up against University opposition, but Robson's was the first, secured shortly after three o'clock. A 22-year-old batsman from Sydney, he made 117 in 190 balls before he was run out. Middlesex declared, amid the creeping realisation that history had been made, at 368-9.

It might also be that March has provided what will turn out to be the fastest first-class hundred of the season. Graham Napier struck a 48-ball hundred with eight sixes against Cambridge UCCE at Fenner's and immediately put himself in contention for the Walter Lawrence Trophy. Only one hundred was faster last season - Kevin O'Brien's' 44-ball affair for Gloucestershire against Middlesex.

Essex made three hundreds in all in their 506-6 against Cambridge UCCE, but they were all late in the day with Robson's achievement already confirmed.

Glamorgan's new captain, Mark Wallace, had to settle for becoming the earliest player ever to make a first-class hundred for a Welsh county - and in Wales they will tell you that is all that matters.

The South African, Zachary Elkin, achieved his own small slice of history. He made the earliest hundred against a first-class county, batting through the day for 127 not out against Somerset in Taunton.

England's crowded first-class fixture list, currently under review, has forced the county season to resort to increasingly early starts. The opening round of championship matches begin on April 5, a fortnight earlier than what historically has been the traditional start in mid-April.

Either the ECB has been extraordinary fortunate or the UK's weather patterns are changing. The weather in early Spring has been dry and sunny for several successive years, forever destroying the theory that the most effective rain dance in the UK involves putting three sticks in the ground 22 yards apart and 22 people dressing in white.

When the clocks went an hour forward last weekend for the start of British Summer Time, the UK was basking in temperatures up to 20C, outshining European holiday destinations such as Barcelona, Nice and Majorca.

Merchant Taylor's School will regard itself as a suitable venue for Robson's spot of sporting history. The boys' school was established in 1561 and its first headmaster, Richard Mulcaster, introduced the concept of referees in football.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by AdrianVanDenStael on (April 4, 2012, 14:17 GMT)

@Meety: well indeed it is certainly clear that some of our Australian correspondents have a go at the Poms whether they have any reason or not. However, since you have provided some evidence, let's consider that. This figure of 10 of the 28 England test debutants being born outside of the UK is a bit misleading, because a) it's equally true that only 11 of the last 63 England test debutants were born outside the UK, b) you're confusing cases like Prior, Owais Shah, and Khawaja (people who've been born in one country but played all their serious cricket in another) with people like Pietersen and Wessels (who played substantial amounts of cricket elsewhere before qualifying for another country). Is there anyway much difference between someone like Shah (born overseas) and players like Samit Patel, Panesar and Sajid Mahmood (not born overseas but descended from people from another country)? Only perhaps in so far as the latter category ultimately encompasses most Australian cricketers.

Posted by Meety on (April 4, 2012, 1:34 GMT)

@AdrianVanDenStael - I personally don't care where a player comes from to qualify to play tests. I don't like it when a player has played through one countries junior ranks & ends up playing elsewhere, particularly when both countries are test playing nations. I & a fair few Ozzys like to bag the Poms (do we need a reason?), due to the HIGH number of these instances. At times England have 5 out of their top 7 batsmen from another country, TEN of their last 28 debutants have come from beyond their shores. IMO - it is just too good an opportunity to miss. You are right, if I was a young bloke & got a job opportunity overseas that was way beyond my pay paygrade, I would accept it. Just like young blokes (& not so young), that have a crack at the insane money in the IPL. I am very pro the individual on this. I like the fact Morgan has played Test cricket.

Posted by AdrianVanDenStael on (April 3, 2012, 11:29 GMT)

@Meety: Yes Proctor and Richards had played test cricket for South Africa, although not much of it, and Kirsten would eventually play test cricket for South Africa (ironically alongside Wessels), but I referred to the option of 'not playing for any other country' (i.e., besides South Africa), an option which those players did not take, but Wessels (along with A. Lamb, eg) did. I don't actually as a rule have a problem with people qualifying to play tests for another country if there is no obvious other way for them to play test cricket, but a lot of people here do. This seems particularly, but not exclusively, true of England fans dissing players qualifying to play for Australia, and Australia fans objecting to players qualifying to play for England. I think there's some hypocrisy here: are these people saying they personally would automatically have said "no" if aged 18-22 (for instance) they'd received an offer of lucrative and/or reputation-enhancing work in California or NYC?

Posted by Meety on (April 3, 2012, 5:05 GMT)

@AdrianVanDenStael - couple of things, I understand your arguement re: Wessells, however, if you factor in an individuals desire to a) relocate or b) play test cricket, what Wessells did was his personal choice, if he wanted to play test cricket, he had a choice between miserable gloomy old england or the more homely feel of QLD! Also - thought Kirsten DID play for Sth Africa? Some of the guys you noted, already had played test cricket & would of had residential requirements & possibly not the same drive to play tests again as somebody who had not experienced it. Also as you'd know there was a lot of Rebel tours to keep most of the players you mentioned keen to stay & play in Saffaland.

Posted by charlesandrewbudge on (April 2, 2012, 16:14 GMT)

@RandyOZ - Strauss learned his trade at my local club in south-east England. Pietersen never played for South Africa, and was an off spinner who batted in the lower order before he came to play in England. Kieswetter represented South Africa at U19 level but never played a first class match for a South African provincial team. Trott holds a British passport and was never considered an overseas player. All three of them decided to stop playing in South Africa of their own accord, nobody was "poached". So basically, there IS another way to describe it. Get your facts straight next time, eh?

Posted by   on (April 2, 2012, 15:58 GMT)

@ chiggers. England are the worst culprits of poaching other teams' cricketers. Australia only had 2 imports in the last 30 years, england had about 30 to 40 imports in the last 30 years. LOL

Posted by   on (April 2, 2012, 15:48 GMT)

Australlia should just give Sam Robson a ODI or 20-20 international debut. This will stop England from poaching him from Australia.

Posted by zenboomerang on (April 2, 2012, 15:20 GMT)

@allblue... Time for you to follow your own advice... Robson was born in Oz, went to school in Oz & played grade cricket in Oz... Personally I don't care where his mother was born & believe this parent rule is rediculous & should be cut out... @:- "Australia have Khawaja and so on"... lol - what "& so on"?... Please explain... Khawaja came to Oz aged 4 & grew up gaining his experiences in Oz with his Oz family... A plainly misguided justification to your illogical argument...

Posted by RandyOZ on (April 2, 2012, 13:57 GMT)

@charlesandrewbudge - you are having a laugh. Trott, Kieswetter and Pietersen all PLAYED for South Africa, and learnt all their trade there. Strauss learnt his trade in Melbourne. It's blatant poaching and there's no other way to describe it.

Posted by AdrianVanDenStael on (April 2, 2012, 13:10 GMT)

@Dashgar: I don't have a problem with these games being recorded as first-class. The annals of first-class cricket after all are littered with one-sided contests. I do however wonder if the way in which certain counties approach these fixtures is the right one. I don't see the point in Somerset letting their batsmen rack up a second-wicket stand of 450 as they have done today (the third highest second-wicket stand ever in first-class cricket in England), not least in the context of the match. @zenboomerang: to answer your question "Who was he [Keppler Wessels] going to play for?... " a) he could have qualified to play for England, as he was playing domestic cricket for Sussex at the time. b) he actually didn't have to play test cricket for any other country at that time. Some significantly better South African players (e.g., Jimmy Cook, Ken McEwan, Clive Rice, Barry Richards, Mike Proctor, Garth LeRoux, Vincent Van Der Bijl, Peter Kirsten) chose that option at that time.

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David Hopps David Hopps joined ESPNcricinfo as UK editor early in 2012. For the previous 20 years he was a senior cricket writer for the Guardian and covered England extensively during that time in all Test-playing nations. He also covered four Olympic Games and has written several cricket books, including collections of cricket quotations. He has been an avid amateur cricketer since he was 12, and so knows the pain of repeated failure only too well. The pile of untouched novels he plans to read, but rarely gets around to, is now almost touching the ceiling. He divides his time between the ESPNcricinfo office in Hammersmith and his beloved Yorkshire.
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