Hain's maturity a lesson to Middlesex
Warwickshire 123 for 4 (Hain 42, Roland-Jones 3-28) trail Middlesex 167 (Finn 37*, Rogers 34, Wright 4-56) by 44 runs
A casual observer at Edgbaston could have been forgiven for thinking they had seen Jonathan Trott return to form on the first day of a game where ball dominated bat.
Certainly the style and mannerisms were familiar: the flick off the hips; the unflustered patience; even the lean on the bat at the non-strikers' end. But while Trott's appearance was limited to a brief foray on to the outfield with his daughter at tea, the top-scorer on a day where 14 wickets fell, was 18-year-old Sam Hain.
Hain, making his first-class debut, showed a composure and discipline that put many far more experienced players in this match to shame. Like Trott at his best, he seemed nerveless, unhurried and capable of turning good length balls outside off stump into the leg side to keep the score ticking along. It was an innings of maturity and no little class.
It would be premature to read too much into one relatively brief innings; the example of Nicky Peng should remind us of that. But Hain has long been earmarked as a player of rare potential and, having made his second XI debut for Warwickshire at 14 and represented Australia U19 at 16, he provoked some unease in the country when he decided his future lay in the UK.
He was spotted by former Warwickshire captain Michael Powell, who now teaches at Loretto School in Edinburgh, when on an exchange programme a few years ago and was quickly signed by the county with the agreement he could finish his schooling in Australia before joining them. He was born in Hong Kong to two British parents but was brought up in Australia. He could still choose to play for England or Australia but he has intimated to Warwickshire that his future is with them. He recently signed a contract extension to keep him at Edgbaston until the end of 2015.
Experienced Warwickshire bowlers talk in something approaching awe of Hain's first net with the senior squad. In helpful conditions, he batted with ease that belied his tender years and had the club talking about the most talented young batsmen they had seen since Ian Bell made a similar impression in his teenage years. There is a long way to go in this career, but if you could buy shares in people, you would buy shares in Hain.
He owed his opportunity here to something of an availability crisis for Warwickshire. With Ian Bell, Chris Woakes, William Porterfield and Freddie Coleman all absent on international duty and Jim Troughton, Rikki Clarke and Trott absent through what might be broadly termed injury, Hain was called into the team despite a fairly modest record in the second XI.
And while other batsmen were punished for pushing and flashing and prodding, Hain prospered with a tight defence, a calm head and a fine eye. On other days, his propensity to favour the leg side may render him susceptible to leg before shouts, but here he drove an off-colour Steven Finn (who was suffering from an upset stomach) off the back foot for his first boundary and looked especially fluent off his legs against an attack that included three other England Lions bowlers. He eventually fell bottom-edging an attempted cut stroke on to his stumps off the excellent Toby Roland-Jones.
Earlier Middlesex had batted with odd recklessness in conditions that encouraged swing bowling but were far from treacherous. They reacted to the swinging ball by trying to hit the bowlers off their length and instead only fell to a succession of excellent slip catches. At one stage they lost eight wickets for 32 runs in subsiding from 34-0 to 66-8.
That is not to say Warwickshire did not bowl well. Chris Wright, back to something approaching his best after an injury-ruined 2013, troubled all the batsmen with his pace and swing and had Sam Robson and Chris Rogers caught in the cordon after pushing at balls that left them.
Neil Dexter was beaten for pace and, with Joe Denly playing down the wrong line and Dawid Malan edging a lavish drive that was wholly inappropriate in the conditions, Middlesex had made the perfectly reasonable decision to bat first appeal foolish. Richard Jones also struck with his fourth ball on debut for Warwickshire; John Simpson caught down the leg side. There was nothing untoward in the pitch.
That they surpassed 150 was largely due to the tenth-wicket stand of 61 between Steven Finn, who top-scored from No. 11 with an unbeaten 37, and Ollie Rayner. The pair counter-attacked against support bowlers and the softer ball, showing-up their top-order colleagues in the process.
Middlesex's bowlers responded well when Warwickshire began their reply. Roland-Jones, maintaining an immaculate line and length, bowled Varun Chopra off the inside edge, prodding forward with a gap between bat and pad, and then Laurie Evans, with a perfect delivery that pitched and left him.
While Hain and Ian Westwood battled hard, the loss of the latter, fencing at one he could have left, left Warwickshire in danger of not taking advantage of Middlesex's carelessness. They are unlikely to benefit from Middlesex batting quite so recklessly twice in the match.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo