A slow Burns day, but rewarding for Surrey
Surrey 267 for 4 (Burns 114, Harinath 61) v Middlesex
The idea that patience is rewarded was reinforced on the opening day at Lord's. As Rory Burns batted almost the entire day for a second Championship hundred in three matches, those of the 2,000-odd crowd that hung on till stumps were treated to an entertaining cameo from Vikram Solanki and some neat touch-play from Steven Davies. But for those early deserters, their reasons could not be faulted.
In an episode of "The Simpsons" Bart and Lisa, in the midst of an argument, decide that violence is the only answer. In an attempt to exonerate themselves from blame, they both decide to wave their arms (Bart) and kick their legs (Lisa), and inch toward the other in a bid to inflict pain yet no shoulder any of the blame. "If you get hit, it's your own fault".
That scene came to mind watching the first two sessions; neither Middlesex nor Surrey could be blamed for the scoreboard lethargy but they were both aware that they'd reached an agreed impasse as the run-rate ambled along at under two an over up till tea. The collective hundred took 312 balls and only a fraction of those caused the Surrey batsmen any discomfort. One took a wicket - Graeme Smith nicking off to Tim Murtagh for a duck - but for a large proportion of the game that was Middlesex's lot as their bowlers erred on the side of cautious attack.
The majority of their good work came from Murtagh, whose opening spell from the Nursery End was good enough to suggest Smith's decision to have first go on a sun-kissed Lord's wouldn't be a formality. Hindsight suggests nothing less, but Murtagh beat the outside edge of all three of Surrey's southpaws at the top of their order with a consistent length and just enough seam movement. His was the only genuine threat in a first session that saw the home side use six bowlers, including the part-time offspin of Paul Stirling on Championship debut.
The pitch was flat but Steven Finn and Toby Roland-Jones' line allowed opener Burns and Arun Harinath to leave comfortably; Harinath in particular benefitting from an hour-long period at the beginning of his innings which asked nothing of him but watchfulness. He brought up his fifty soon after Burns but was out carelessly flashing at a wide ball from Finn. The England quick has had better days on the field but his pace picked up as the hours went on, but the more cynical of Middlesex fans would say he was just going through the motions. Meanwhile it was a day of slog for Roland-Jones - after a profitable start to the season - as he went wicketless.
The spoils of the day went, undoubtedly, to Burns for a second century in three Championship matches. He may be boyish in age and aesthetics but his reading of certain passages within each session spoke volumes about his batting nous. When Finn and Roland-Jones pushed him onto the back foot he went with it and did some of his best work from there; a thump through midwicket on his tip-toes a particularly pleasing riposte to a Roland-Jones bumper.
He had a brace of reprieves - John Simpson put down a tough chance off the glove for a slack attempt at a hook and Sam Robson missed a fairly simple run-out from gully - but he didn't dwell on them. Instead, he remained purposeful and calm.
The presence of Solanki would have reassured Burns as he made his way through the nineties, not least because of the former's strokeplay. Solanki hit seven fours, three of them coming in one Murtagh over, who was a shadow or his early-morning self. But he was rewarded for his earlier toil with a second wicket late in proceedings, as Burns played him onto his stumps trying to drive on the up, bringing to close a near six-hour display of serene toil.