Middlesex v Surrey, Lord's, 3rd day May 4, 2013

Record-breaking Middlesex move ahead

Vithushan Ehantharajah at Lord's

Middlesex 166 and 283 for 2 (Rogers 131*, Robson 129) lead Surrey 338 by 111 runs

Chris Rogers and Sam Robson set a new record for the highest ever first-wicket stand for Middlesex against Surrey on a day that saw the home side wrestle back the initiative from their south of the river rivals. It was in the 69th over that the record set by Pelham Warner and James Douglas in 1907 at The Oval was passed, and owed as much to the openers' pro-active start as it did to a pitch that became much easier to bat on.

In an elongated afternoon session, Rogers and Robson compiled 161 runs in 48 overs, in a determined yet comfortable manner. They continued on their merry way in the evening with such nonchalance that the passing of Surrey's total was met with nothing more than a cursory glance at the scorecard from the spectators. While their hundreds were reached at the same pace - both took 185 balls - the nature of their innings bore the imprint of their respective personalities.

Robson displayed his aptitude for driving before bringing out his dabs behind square on both sides of the wicket. If you'll allow the typecasting, he is the evolving opener; growing into his innings through a well-rounded attacking game rather than bitty accumulation. Obviously that comes with its own pitfalls - his conversion rate of fifties to hundreds may never get above the one-third it stands at now - but he is an exciting prospect who should be encouraged to play his game. His decision to try and hook Zander de Bruyn cost him his wicket, but he had played a fine hand.

"Been there - done that - did it again" would be the pithy 1990s subtext to Rogers' first century for Middlesex against Surrey. The majority of his runs against the seamers came through third-man with a deliberateness that Jade Dernbach couldn't quite believe; anything on his legs was greatly received. Even when he was driving crisply yet straight to the fielders at the end of the day, he would wryly walk away from his crease, before returning to push the next ball around the corner for a couple. It was his career in a nutshell; trial and error - hold the error.

The day started with Surrey taking the one remaining wicket before Tim Murtagh and Corey Collymore could add the 28 runs needed to avoid the follow-on. Unsurprisingly, with his bowlers well rested and rain predicted for Sunday, Graeme Smith put Middlesex back in. There was rain in the air; a light drizzle greeted spectators upon their arrival before the start of play and a bigger, longer downpour came with Middlesex 29 without loss.

A 40-minute delay and an early lunch later, in muggier conditions, Dernbach drew the first false shot with Rogers edging a difficult chance to Wilson at second slip, which had the Irishman diving to his right and slightly forward, but failing to hold on.

At the other end, Chris Tremlett looked strong and quick, bringing his length forward and hitting the bat hard. Watching him the previous day from square of the wicket, the 6ft 7 inch bowler had a notable stop after delivery; an unusual hop, seemingly dissipating any kind of forward momentum. Today he bustled through the crease with greater fluency - the hop making way for a couple of ferocious strides. However, Rogers used this extra pace to slap a couple of fours behind point as he and Robson took Middlesex past fifty with minimal fuss.

The springiness of the surface on the opening was a faint memory as the pitch played with more conventional bounce which Robson in particular thrived on. He didn't have to force the issue, instead timing the ball well on the front foot and, as he moved into the 30s, working the ball through cover-point and in front of square leg off Tim Linley and Dernbach.

He moved past fifty for the fourth time this season with his ninth boundary and Rogers soon joined him in the fifties, though not before a little scare when he edged again to second slip, this time well short, off the bowling of Linley. Save that moment, Linley was ineffectual and at times looked like he was returning a favour to Robson.

As both players motored on in the evening session, Smith got creative in the field. When Robson was startled by a short-ball from Dernbach, Smith encouraged his bowler to persist and supported him with five men on the leg-side; a wide mid-on, midwicket, deep square leg and two behind square - one of whom was a leg-slip.

Considering the circumstances and the protagonists - an Australian batsman in the process of qualifying for England and a South African-born English bowler obeying the orders of his pugnacious yet affable skipper - it was very much Bodyline-lite, and when Dernbach was slightly wide with his short-ball, Robson gleefully moved to 96, and past 3,000 first-class runs.

Rogers was not keen to play the short ball, choosing to duck and dive, which only infuriated Dernbach further; he thought he might have had Robson caught off an inside edge but it wasn't given. The 200 partnership came up with both batsmen on 98 and the only question was who would get there first. In the end it was Rogers with a punch through cover, before Robson followed with a scampered single to midwicket.

With an overnight lead of 111, Middlesex's middle order have the chance to make amends for their earlier misdemeanours and give their bowlers enough runs and - importantly - time to push for a win. The corresponding fixture, albeit on a less accommodating pitch, produced a thrilling finish in Middlesex's favour, and history suggests it may not just dribble to a draw.

If the Sunday of a long weekend has you at a loose end, look no further than Lord's - where adult tickets £5 and it's free for over-65s and under-16s - for the finale of what has been a compelling encounter.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Andrew on May 7, 2013, 4:28 GMT

    @jmcilhinney on (May 7, 2013, 3:05 GMT) - I would say that is how non-England supporters like to cast it. Again (like stargazer) you are using the dictionary interpretation. Clearly there is a cricket version of the word, which applies to players who play for a country other than their birthplace. Those players can have the most noble of reasons & I don't deny any of them that right - so I do not hold that " It would be more appropriate to criticise the players..." for defecting although some people do (Boyd Rankin is often bagged by Irish fans). At the end of the day, the old poaching chestnut is whatever you want to make of it, as an Ozzy without the Ashes it means (IMO), that Pommy fans don't have bragging rights to having the better domestic comp, as a world cricket fan, I hate seeing players like Joyce unable to help Irish cricket because he had a crack at a Test spot with England & am bemused about workplace laws (Kolpak) have created a viable breeding ground at SA's expense!

  • John on May 7, 2013, 3:05 GMT

    @Meety on (May 5, 2013, 23:56 GMT), that's how people like to cast it because it means that they can criticise the opposition but poaching inherently requires taking something that doesn't belong to you. It would be more appropriate to criticise the players for defecting than the opposition for poaching.

  • Peter on May 6, 2013, 0:39 GMT

    I guess Rogers showed the value of experience. @Optic . I wouldn't take your points as a means of Copeland failing. He has, of the regular bowlers, the lowest economy rate, meaning he ties up one end making it easier for other bowers up the other. I was also surprised he didn't take wickets as well, but seeing him play often for the Blues, he bowls tirelessly, beats the bat constantly & really bowls for his co-bowlers with his economy. I believe Northants are more than happy with their acquisition, & when on song, as shown in this game, he is quite devastating. The fact he is improving is the biggest plus.

  • Andrew on May 5, 2013, 23:56 GMT

    @CricketingStargazer on (May 5, 2013, 8:04 GMT) - individual players can do whatever they like, & unless Robson plays Shield cricket (I'm sure QLD would take him as their openers are mediocre at best), he is as ineligible as Hodges or Katich. Poaching in cricket terms, is taking on players who have learned tehir cricket trade in another country. So IMO, it would include say KP & Trott, but not Strauss. Given Robson is an Ozzy U19s player, if he were to play for England (IMO) - he would be poached. The same with the other Ozzy batsmen (forgotten his name who was Hong Kong born) who played U19s for Oz & is doing well in County. @Optic on (May 5, 2013, 16:14 GMT) - I think you'll find reports that Copeland was threatening in all those games, & he was building pressure by having arguably the best Economy rate in the County Champ. The fact that most of his wickets have come from one game, is just the law of averages, you bowl well for long enuff, the rewards will come.

  • Pete on May 5, 2013, 20:19 GMT

    Ummm... if Rogers gets a berth for the Ashes there is no room for Cowan. Watson should open. Potential partners are Rogers, Warner, Cowan and - don't laugh - Hughes. Probably the most feasible First Test line up would be Watson/Rogers/Hughes/Warner/Clarke/Khawaja/Haddin/Starc/Pattinson/Siddle/Lyon. If Harris is fit, no Starc (the problem here is not that Starc, Pattinson or Siddle are not viable, more suitable variety). Khawaja deserves a shot, but has proved inadequate in past Tests and needs protection down the order. They may opt for Cowan ahead of Rogers, but essentially no-one in Australia knows why. Haddin's a better keeper than Wade (just) and Wade is better bat (just), so it's much of a muchness. This team is flaky, but you never know... England aren't great, either.

  • Dummy4 on May 5, 2013, 16:21 GMT

    Impressive by Middlesex, but let's not forget that Lionel Tennyson's Hampshire were once shot out for 15 with no excuse whatever, made to follow on, and scored 500+ for a comfortable win. :)

  • GARY on May 5, 2013, 16:14 GMT

    @Sunil_Batra Tbh Copeland up to this game has been disappointing with the ball, 5 wickets in his previous 6 inning, for an overseas Aussie international he should have picked up more wickets than he has especially considering he is bowling at second division batsman in May.

  • Rahul on May 5, 2013, 12:49 GMT

    Another guy doing well is copelan, 10 wickets for him this match. Getting runs this season as well. He really has had a great season overall. I would not be referring to him as just a bowler anymore. Bowling all rounder more like it and someone to consider if there are injuries int he bowling department. On the batting front its a good problem to have to see one of our openers get runs, inclusion of both him and Khawaja were great for the ashes. And before folks attack Cowan, I agree that he needs to start converting his 30s and 40s into big scores but at least he is over playing county cricket to get used to the conditions in England so give him a chance, if he fails in the ashes then ok he is out but let him have a go first.

  • Lewis on May 5, 2013, 12:44 GMT

    I would be tempted to open with Rogers in the ashes. Another problem is that Watson bats well as opener too so you could open with these 2 but its a good problem to have. I would definitely get Khawaja in the top 6 as he was one of our best shield and Ryobi batsman till Christmas after which he hasn't played a game. Warner will fire for us in the ashes and he is another who can bat anywhere int he top 6, he is overdue.Either way its time for Cowan to convert his starts similar to what this man is doing.. Just my two cents.

  • Terry on May 5, 2013, 11:18 GMT

    There was an article on Robson on here recently and I think Chris Rogers was quoted as saying he thinks he is aiming to play for England. He is one of those players with a legitimate choice to make as he has connections to both countries so it is up to him. Understandably at the moment he is just trying to make a living in the game via a contract with Middlesex and obviously keeping his England qualification open means he isnt an overseas player and can play with no problem.Until he has an offer from either country he is wise to carry on as he is. If players meet the eligibilty requirements I dont have a problem with any decision that players make in terms of their own personal careers. England get stick but that is often because players like Pietersen & Trott choose them as they can make a county cricket living easier than in other countries as a starting point.

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