Middlesex v Notts, Lord's, 2nd day April 14, 2014

Robson presses England claims

Vithushan Ehantharajah

Middlesex 296 for 4 trail Nottinghamshire 326 by 30 runs

It has been less than a week since Middlesex collapsed twice at the hands of Sussex, but a fine hundred from Sam Robson which moved him ever closer to a potential Test debut and a punchy half-century from Eoin Morgan ensured they would not repeat the blip against Nottinghamshire.

Indeed, for all the talk of England's turmoil and Middlesex's soft underbelly, today, for one and a half sessions at least, today was a welcome calm that for both parties gave way for quiet optimism.

News filtered through to the upper tier of the Compton Stand of hundreds for Alastair Cook and Ian Bell, as Robson and Morgan were well into a 203-run partnership - the highest third innings partnership since Chris Rogers and Dawid Malan put on the same amount at Lord's, against Lancashire in August 2012.

Robson is promising to follow a highly-productive Lions winter with more heavy runs with Middlesex. An England debut against Sri Lanka at Lord's, his home ground, is becoming likelier by the day.

Idle natter turned to fantasy England XIs; some were balanced, others not. Others wondered if the hosts could take defeat out of the game and push on for the win. At stumps, Morgan felt it was too early to consider being involved in either.

It was that pair of 2012 that fell in 10th over of Middlesex's first innings, Rogers nicking off to third slip and Malan not moving his feet to nick behind, leading to groans from spectators, who feared the worst. At that stage, Peter Siddle had experimented with some hooping outswingers that had Robson groping outside off stump and Luke Fletcher was rewarded, twice, for getting the ball to nibble from his great height.

"I loved watching him bat," said Morgan at stumps, who revealed that the pair had never shared any time before coming together at 19 for 2. It was a baffling fact given they looked so at ease in each other's company, with styles that complemented each other to exasperate a disciplined Notts attack.

While the right-left combination helped push the bowlers back, it was their differing approach to lengths that really had Middlesex ahead on points. Back of a length deliveries which Robson would leave or defend were being drive, square, by Morgan, with his punchier wrists and springy footwork. Where Robson would bound into the full ones, driving crisply straight and through cover, Morgan would defend or pick up singles.

The afternoon session represented the crowning glory of this bond as they added 132 runs, with little but one awry shot from Morgan, which landed safely between cover and the boundary rider running in from deep point. It was here that Robson brought up his first Championship century of the season.

Very few openers on the county circuit convert toil to grace with as much ease as Robson. Once he got into the groove, he took control of the game and began timing the ball well in front of the wicket. Against Samit Patel, he skipped to the pitch of the ball and placed him expertly through a packed cover region. His return tomorrow on 144 gives Middlesex the edge and, with John Simpson set and Gareth Berg and Ollie Rayner to come, ambitions of a first innings lead.

Morgan kept himself in check, manipulating the field as he does in the one day game, while refraining from shots many feel he should leave to that format. There was one over-the-shoulder dink which earned him three runs, but the evidence from the man himself is that new priorities mean a new approach.

Over the winter he had discussions with Paul Downton, incoming managing director of the ECB at the time, which touched on "where his head was at" in regards to Test cricket. His withdrawal from the IPL and a quick hefty pay-packet was as clear an indication as any that Morgan was given assurances that he was in the reckoning for Test consideration after two years out of that particular game following a horrendous tour of the UAE.

Even with the change of heart towards participating in this year's edition of the IPL, he needed assistance from the ECB and the BCCI so that he could waive his contractual obligations to participate in the 2014 auction. "They [the ECB and BCCI] were very accommodating," he reflected.

As aware off the field as he is on it, Morgan is not fooled by his knocked today. He will know that it is his highest score in Championship cricket since a century at Leicestershire back in April 2009. He will also know that his last first class hundred was a Test century against India in August 2011.

For now, his focus is runs and success for Middlesex. His 86 today has gone some way to ensuring the latter is a very real possibility at the halfway stage of this match.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • John on April 16, 2014, 5:14 GMT

    @Ken McCarron: Maddinson and Patterson are among Australia's best young batting prospects, but 'infinitely better' than Robson? Maddinson has a career average of 36.50 and is going through a horrendous bad patch- in his last 9 first-class innings, no not-outs, he has scored a total of 128 runs. Patterson has only played 9 first-class games and has an average of 37.06. He scored his only century, 157, in his first innings back in 2011, so since then he hasn't exactly lit it up.

    Robson has a first-class average, after this innings, of 41.91, and in his last 9 first-class innings, with 1 not-out, has 526 runs with 3 centuries, the lowest of which was 142. I'd like to see him be a little more consistent, but when he gets in he scores big runs. He made 3 centuries in 4 FC games in Sri Lanka this Winter, so he can play in any conditions.

    If Robson were to make himself available for Australia, he'd be a dead certainty to replace Chris Rogers once Rogers' age finally catches up with him.

  • Android on April 15, 2014, 18:04 GMT

    another overseas born player to play for england.

  • Fridge on April 15, 2014, 16:45 GMT

    @Ken I can't honestly believe you would use that rational in determining a players worth. Because he decided to look for further opportunities abroad as he was behind some world-class players in the pecking order, that means he should forever be discarded? Pull your finger out mate, he was 18 when he left, not everyone peaks in life at that age.

    He forced his way into the Middlesex team with good form, starting off slowly but managing to improve his FC average every year, now above 40 and only going to get higher. He was clearly good enough over the last few years to play for NSW but doing so would have meant he forfeited his domestic spot in the Middlesex XI, only the 'Robson Rule' finally introduced last year could have allowed him to do that, but by then it was too late.

    By all means if you don't rate someone, let your opinion be known, but back it up with legitimate reasons. Uncritical thinking like your's will not hold water.

  • Dummy4 on April 15, 2014, 11:02 GMT

    I can't honestly believe that Robson will be picked for England. The guy left Sydney because he wouldn't stand a chance of getting into the NSW team at the time behind players like Clarke, Watson, Jaques, Warner, Hughes, Smith, Henriques and now men like Nic Maddinson and Kurtis Patterson who are infinitely better players. Surely England can do better?

  • Mark on April 15, 2014, 7:33 GMT

    @Asad Good point! I had forgotten Adil Rashid. Still young. Batting better than ever. And Moeen is very close after some solid performances.... if only he could get some runs to add to his wickets in the current game.

    Someone is going to be very unlucky. It is going to be very tough for Trott and Morgan to get in the frame.

  • Mark on April 15, 2014, 7:16 GMT

    Wise words from @landl47. Still, it is a long time before the First Test and before the selectors need to name a squad and much can happen before then. Things may look very different in a month's time. However, with tons from Prior, Bell, Cook & Robson and wickets for Anderson, Jordan & Finn, things are looking up. Ideally, England will want to make no more than three changes from the core of the Ashes squad... more will just destabilise the side even more.

    Morgan? If he makes two centuries in the next three games we would be daft *not* to consider him, but it would be a surprise for me if it were to happen.

    You have to think that Middlesex are ahead in the game here, but another catastrophic collapse is never far away and there is still a second innings in this game!

  • Android on April 15, 2014, 6:59 GMT

    England r in a bit of a good situation here with plenty of lads to look at for test positions. Robson as we have seen looks in fine form and will probably be the opener next to Cook, James Taylor banged down a double in Sri Lanka and has come back with 60+ therefore will probably take No.3, Bell showed his class and will keep the No.4 place. now where it gets tough; Vince scoring hundreds, Morgan being around the set up, Root being classy and Ballance playing well, number 5 is open and will be a problem. Number 6 will either he stokes or Rashid, and we know Rashid has that googly making him a rare unorthodox selection. the keeper, if prior keeps for sussex rather than just batting then he will get the place back, buttler showed his inability in Bangladesh and Bairstow is out for a while. probably another option is Wheater who scores runs and keeps well. bowling is well covered now that Finn is bowling well, Broad, Finn, Anderson and Monty will be the 4 front liners

  • John on April 15, 2014, 4:24 GMT

    A fine knock by Robson, who was one of the few England players to have a good Winter. With Cook and Bell making not-out centuries, Vince, another young hopeful, also getting 144 and half-centuries by Taylor and Ballance, The current round of games has been good for England's prospective batting line-up. Root isn't back playing yet, but his performances in the West Indies were very heartening and showed that he had bounced back from the tough Ashes tour. Hopefully a reshaped England line-up will get back on track against the somewhat gentler pace attacks of Sri Lanka and India this Summer.

  • Rue on April 15, 2014, 1:29 GMT

    How can Morgan seriously be considered a test batsman, his first class record is appalling. He is NOT like a Vaughan or a Trescothick who had average first class averages, they both had solid techniques. Morgan in my view does not.

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