Middlesex Gubbins in working order
Middlesex 280 for 3 (Rogers 86, Malan 72*, Gubbins 54) v Northamptonshire
On a Lord's pitch that exhibited little sideways movement, in conditions that offered even less through the air, this has the look of a match that will be decided on mistakes. Northamptonshire's decision to bowl was probably the first.
At stumps, the error count was 4-3 in Middlesex's favour, Eoin Morgan chopping on in the evening session for the home side's third mistake. Either team could have ended the first day in better positions but ultimately will settle for what they have so far. You might describe some of the action as "gubbins".
The definition is up for debate. Some believe it to mean bits and pieces, others "a bit naff". Urban Dictionary - an entertaining rather than sensible point of reference - has nine entries on "Gubbins", each offering its own take on the colloquialism, with varying degrees of authenticity. This was not a day for "household odds and ends" or "a phase of adolescence involving wearing tight lycra". But it was one that Nick Gubbins, the left-handed opener who made his debut for Middlesex, will remember.
Maybe "refreshingly composed after a dodgy start" could slip in as a further definition. Opening up with the batting institution that is Chris Rogers, he could be forgiven for some nerves. Rogers is one of a number of senior figures who are invested in guiding him. On Saturday, Gubbins was speaking to Andrew Strauss, a fellow Radley College alumnus who is acting as a mentor. "If I have half the career he has had, I'll be very happy," Gubbins said at the close.
It was almost two years to the day that he made his debut for the Middlesex 2nd XI, when a second-innings 71 helped secure a win over Hampshire. Sam Robson opened with him for that knock, and it was his absence through ECB-prescribed rest that handed Gubbins his opportunity.
He looks to possess a strong temperament and a relish for the pull shot, which he displayed in the 22nd over, rocking forward, then back to whip Maurice Chambers over square leg for six. However, it could have been a whole lot worse for Gubbins and Middlesex.
Into the third over of the day, desperate for his first Middlesex run, Gubbins pushed the ball tentatively into the off side and set off as if it was his last. Rogers, 16 years and 268 matches wiser, allowed him the indecision and obliged but was within a whisker of being caught short at the other end, as cover pounced and went to throw down the stumps. Gubbins had called it before he left the house in the morning.
"I said to my brother, 'I'll try not to run Chris Rogers out'," he recalled, in a relieved tone. "As soon as I went for it I was like, 'Oh no!' Thank goodness it missed otherwise it probably would have been my only game."
Then, on 8, he pushed at a ball from Azharullah that went low to Matthew Spriegel, who could not hold on. With both reprieves behind him, Gubbins settled and contributed 54 to an opening stand of 128.
It was hard not to look for similarities between the two left-handers, but there are not many. They leave the ball with little more than lean forward and an angling of the bat so that the toe is parallel to their shoulder. Gubbins has more of a tell with his expansive shots, seemingly winding up before going into a drive. Rogers on the other hand deals in late jabs, the best of which came when he cracked Azharullah over point for six.
There was a big score for him on offer but it was not to be as he attempted to send Steven Crook to Baker Street, only to miss the ball and given Crook his first wicket on his return to Lord's. Gubbins had earlier been dismissed by Azharullah, finally bringing about his own demise by desperately trying to manufacture a second hook to a good-length ball and finding Chambers at mid-on. It is a shot he enjoys and will continue playing but admitted this particular ball was one he should have cut.
It may well be that Northants' last error is the one they live to regret. Dawid Malan, on 32, was dropped at second slip by Rob Keogh, off the bowling of Andrew Hall, and ended the day 40 runs better off. The new ball is due first thing in the morning. If it is negotiated successfully, Malan is the type to score quickly and could easily take his side further ahead.