Warwickshire v Middlesex, Edgbaston, 2nd day May 9, 2013

Robson makes a telling point


Middlesex 428 for 5 (Robson 215*, Patel 3-99) v Warwickshire

Perhaps, when we come to reflect on the summer of 2013, we might look at this as a crucial day in the Championship campaign. We might reflect on a bonus point gained and a bonus point lost and conclude that, right there, the Championship title was decided. We might.

We probably won't, though. In truth, this was a largely inconsequential day blighted by awful weather. Only 40 overs were possible as driving rain intervened shortly after lunch.

That was unfortunate for Middlesex. They have been by some distance the best of the sides in this match and had already built a match-defining position, scoring at just over four-an-over throughout the day and securing maximum batting points from the final delivery of the 110th over.

It was a close run thing. With Middlesex requiring a single run and Warwickshire a single wicket from the final delivery of the 110th over for a point, Jeetan Patel saw Gareth Berg coming down the wicket and fired the ball down the leg side. While he beat the bat, Berg was able to get some pad on the ball and it ran away past the clutches of wicketkeeper Tim Ambrose and for two byes. Who knows how crucial that point either way may prove by the end of September?

The other event of note was Robson recording the highest first-class score of his career to date. He will face tougher attacks on tougher wickets, but he looks to have many of the qualities required for an international career. He demonstrated a pleasing selflessness as he accelerated smoothly to ensure his side gained full bonus points and, with Warwickshire declining to feed his drives as much as they had on the first day, unveiled some pleasing pulls, a rasping cut and a slog-sweep for six off Patel to take him past his previous best - 204 against Oxford MCCU in 2010.

Some may talk of the return of the heavy roller and suggest that batting has become easier. But for opening batsmen at the start of games, such issues make no difference. To have scored the weight of runs Robson has in April and early May - he has 579 runs from his seven Championship innings this season - is testament to a young man with exceptional powers of concentration, a sound technique and a decent array of strokes.

As yet, most Australian cricket lovers have not woken up to quite what a gem they have let slip through their fingers. They will, though. He has already scored more runs this year than Phil Hughes managed in 17 Championship innings for Worcestershire last year and looks, in these conditions, a far more solid batsman.

Robson looked uncomfortable when asked what he would say if John Inverarity, chairman of the Australian selectors, called tomorrow and asked him to join the Ashes squad. He insists it is "not realistic" to consider the implications of an Australian call-up. Among other issues, he points out that he has "never played first-class cricket in Australia" and that "you have to knock down the door for year after year with weight of runs" to force your way into an international team.

All of which is usually true. But the Australian selectors may be looking for someone to play in England, not Australia. And with his experience and form he would add solidity to a top-order that looks short of such a quality. Besides, by picking him now, the Australian selectors would be investing in the future. He qualifies for England in a year; unless Inverarity and co act with urgency, it will be too late.

It is probably unfair to press him on his future. Robson is a 23-year-old trying to pursue a career in a precarious profession. He knows it is unwise to look too far ahead and while he would, naturally, love to play international cricket, by committing himself to England and county cricket, he has maximised his chances of enjoying a long career in sport. If other options become available, he can consider them. For now, he is happy developing at Middlesex and contributing to a team that looks set for a sustained challenge on the Championship title.

"England is where it is at for me," Robson said. And not just for him, but for his brother, too. Angus Robson, who is 21, is currently playing second XI cricket for Leicestershire. Although it was Robson's mother, who was from Nottingham, who provided the background for his UK passport, his father also played second XI cricket for Worcestershire in 1979.

"I came to London as soon as I finished school," Robson continued. "I love living here and I love playing for Middlesex. There have been opportunities to play first-class cricket in Australia, but it would jeopardise my future with Middlesex [he would have to play as an overseas player if he represented an Australian state in first-class cricket] and I can't do that.

"I really don't want to give any of that any attention. It's so easy to get out. I just want to get stuck in and really make it count while I can."

Sensible words from a sensible man with a very bright future.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • GARY on May 10, 2013, 22:41 GMT

    @Dashgar Absolute rubbish, County Cricket doesn't poach no one, what a childish thing to say.You think when Ballance came over as a 16 year old the ECB knew who he was or poached him lol, even back then he was saying he wanted to play for England. Players come here from all the world to make an income and have done for decades, because It's the only place where the average cricketer can make a living between May and September.

    The fact is, which is where you seem to have problem is that the likes of Robson and Ballance choose for themselves where they play, no one else. Also Robson was born half English, so it's completely up to him whether he plays for his mothers country, or his fathers. I'd also to love to know who are all these international players CC is stopping from playing against England, it seems you're grip on the County system & player choices is weak at best

  • Alan on May 10, 2013, 20:39 GMT

    Australia should have Rogers AND Robson opening in the first Test. I'd stick with Hughes at 3 for the moment, then Clarke, Khawaja, Warner and Haddin.

  • Andrew on May 10, 2013, 13:18 GMT

    @Jono Makim - spot on re: "...CA needs to do better as well, losing guys like Robson and Sam Hain after they've represented Aus at underage level is very poor!" In other sports (Football codes), if you have juniors playing for other clubs, questions would be asked. Not sure exactly what the price differential is in State contracts v County contracts, but it boggles the mind that a bloke can genuinely feel more likely to make a living on the other side of the planet then his state system! @ Chris_P on (May 10, 2013, 5:10 GMT) - I agree with the first bit of what you say, but I think cricket is only the winner if he gets to show his talents on the world stage. At the moment - England have a settled top order, Oz - not so, if Robson has a career like say Rogers where his best is never at the right time - are we (neutrally speaking - better of - dunno). @VillageBlacksmith on (May 10, 2013, 11:08 GMT) - I agree, I don't thi nk there was any "slip", Robson made an objective career move!

  • R on May 10, 2013, 11:08 GMT

    Having lived in london and in oz I know where I wd much rather live, and as a 23yr old I reckon he is spot on... And not sure where the let slip through the aussie fingers comment comes from, esp when you read robson's comments... He is having a good season so well done, but as people say on here, he has a long way to go to become a test batter...

  • Dummy4 on May 10, 2013, 10:35 GMT

    @Dashgar, I think we'll probably be seeing Ballance in the England side sooner rather than later. I believe he is already qualified, still, I find it hard to criticize any Zimbabwean leaving his country for greener pastures. Craig and Sean Ervine probably should be playing for Zimbabwe too and there's plenty of other Zimbabweans over there i'm sure, Glen Querl is another that springs to mind. International cricket is heading towards being professionalized rather than it being about representing your country. New Zealand with their recent inflow of South Africans and Aussies aren't doing it much differently to the Pommies. The laws have just been changed on qualification times but i'm not sure if they apply to players who'd already started their qualification period.

    Having said that, an organization like Cricket NSW is probably its own worst enemy, CA needs to do better as well, losing guys like Robson and Sam Hain after they've represented Aus at underage level is very poor!

  • Tim on May 10, 2013, 9:15 GMT

    The county system is set up to poach players from overseas. Players are rewarded for not playing international cricket against England by being given a local spot in county. Personally as an Australian I'd be a bit pissed off if Robson played for England. But the bigger issue here is another player called Gary Ballance who could already be the best batsman in Zimbabwe but isn't playing for them so he can play county. Imagine if the IPL tried to do this, the entire cricket world would be screaming conspiracy. For some reason England get away with it.

  • Philip on May 10, 2013, 8:12 GMT

    One can hardly blame Robson if he's seen a more certain future in County Cricket than in the Sheffield Shield. The State format has gone a little stale and needs a revamp. Adding the Territories would help to re-invigorate it. As a New South Welshman, Robson may have considered heading interstate, but his Brit passport probably trumped that. Australia needs to provide a better, clearer professional pathway than what I currently see on offer. That's one of the reasons why, down south, it loses out to AFL, and why, with Robson, it has lost out to the County scene.

  • Dummy4 on May 10, 2013, 6:24 GMT

    @Abhishek Burman, I don't think he'll be an automatic selection for England once qualified, far from it in fact. He'll still be behind Cook, Compton and Root at least. I just hope for his sake that whichever way he chooses to go it will be the most beneficial for him. We've seen guys like Ed Joyce and Eion Morgan go down this path and it hasn't exactly been rewarding for them. On the other side you have guys like Trott and KP. I'd like to see him in the Aussie set up as I think there's probably a few more opportunities there.

  • Stephen on May 10, 2013, 6:00 GMT

    Test call ups are premature, this is a massively weakened attack from Warks, led b Patel as the only out and out bowler in a rhythm on a non turning wicket. Rankin is coming back from injury so isn't match sharp or fully consistent, Clarke can't bowl at full pace, Milne & Allen aren't 1XI bowlers just yet. Add any of Woakes, Wright, Barker or even Hanalon Dalby and I doubt he makes as many.

  • Peter on May 10, 2013, 5:10 GMT

    The guy is a mature adult. He knows what he wants so let him make up his own mind. I't's not like either board is twisting his arm. If he chooses to stay with England, then good luck to him, you have to look at the big picture & that is cricket wins overall.

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