Hales impresses on gratifying day for Notts
Nottinghamshire 132 for 1 (Hales 71*, Lumb 51*) v Middlesex
Nottinghamshire have batted first in all of their six Championship matches so far and 42 overs has on average been enough for them to lose six wickets, so it is not difficult to appreciate how happy they felt to be 132 for 1 when rain arrived.
Even more gratifying for their captain Chris Read, one suspects, is that he won the toss and chose to bat, which has tended not to be the preferred option in this bowler-dominated early season.
Trent Bridge is hardly known for offering home comforts to the county's toiling batters yet groundsman Steve Birks has managed to prepare an easy-paced pitch for this match -- but on the Bridgford Road side of the square, closest to the newest of the stands -- that has so far offered progress relatively trouble-free.
Something different was threatened at the outset. Neil Edwards, who has proved more difficult to dislodge at the top of the order this season than he tended to be during his last run in the side, perished to his first ball, bowled off an inside edge.
The blow was struck by Steven Finn, who might not have been playing here had bad weather not affected his previous attempts to put overs in the bank ahead of the home Tests. Finn, limited to less than 20 overs against Worcestershire last week, was by some way the most threatening of the Middlesex bowlers, working up a good pace and generating some testing bounce from time to time but could not find another wicket.
All of the scoring has come from Alex Hales, 71 not out, and Michael Lumb, 51 not out. With the England selector James Whitaker in attendance it was a timely moment for Hales to impress, and impress he did. Hales, who made his England Lions debut and made three first-class centuries last season, was omitted from the England Performance Squad for 2012, which tends to suggest he has work to do.
Hales can be an extremely destructive batsman, although he has a tendency to be impatient. His instinct is to attack and from time to time it rewards him handsomely but clearly he needs to be able to recognise when it is appropriate to do so.
His first boundary shot flew over the top of the slips as he attempted to cut Tim Murtagh. Later, he edged Neil Dexter through the air to the right of Andrew Strauss moments after second slip had been removed. But most of his 13 boundaries have been from authentic strokes.
Hales completed his half-century off only 70 balls, which was some 58 balls faster than Lumb, whose approach was more circumspect.
Lumb, the 32-year-old former Yorkshire and Hampshire left-hander, was signed by Nottinghamshire to give some backbone to their frail top order, even though he has tended to be seen recently as a limited-overs specialist with a particular affinity for Twenty20.
In fact, he has 13 first-class centuries to his name and has arrived at Trent Bridge keen to demonstrate a durable technique and his form on difficult early-season pitches has been good. He made a match-winning century against Durham last month and his 128-ball half-century in this match follows a gritty 62 against Lancashire last week.