County news April 1, 2012

Robson hundred makes history

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