Roland-Jones' freewheeling maiden ton is just champion
Middlesex 106 and 573 for 8 (Compton 149, Roland-Jones 103*) lead Yorkshire 299 by 380 runs
Toby Roland-Jones observed Yorkshire's deserved status as newly-crowned county champions and treated it with unexpected disdain as he summoned a freewheeling maiden first-class century which belied his position at no 10 in Middlesex's batting order.
Roland-Jones channelled the cavalier tailender of yore, but with far more class. His defence was solid, his driving sumptuous. One flick to the midwicket boundary off Ryan Sidebottom with the third new ball was played with a particularly wonderful flourish as he rose up to meet the ball with disdain.
There had been loose talk of a Yorkshire win within two days. Instead, with three days done, Middlesex lead by 380 runs after Roland-Jones followed a hundred of considerable defiance from Nick Compton, an opener still driven by hopes of an England recall.
The spirit of Roland-Jones's innings was encapsulated by the manner he hurtled towards his landmark. Needing 18 from the final two overs of the day, he fashioned half that total from Jack Brooks. Yorkshire then entrusted the day's final over to Jake Leaning, an occasional Yorkshire offspinner with only 21 overs to his name all season. A push to long on for two was followed by a six flicked over midwicket. Roland-Jones was on 99, with four balls to get the run he needed.
"I was trying not to think too much and not have too many things running through my head. I just happened to get one outside offstump - that was a pretty special feeling," he said, reflecting on creaming Leaning through the covers to reach his century.
Shades of Steve Waugh's last ball hundred against Richard Dawson, another Yorkshire offspinner of rather greater ambition, in the Sydney Test in 2003 perhaps? "It's a pretty surreal feeling," he said. "It will take a while to sink in."
Together with James Harris, who was in more austere during a ninth-wicket partnership of 146, Roland-Jones ensured that the work of Compton was not wasted.
Compton arrived at the crease at 1.37pm on Thursday. He took one day and nine minutes to be dislodged. When he was dismissed, he trudged off wearing the look of a child being dragged away from his favourite TV programme. Despite making a chanceless 149, Compton was evidently was far from satisfied. It was a snapshot of the adhesiveness that marks him out as one of the hardest men to prize out in the county game. And it reflected, too, a sense of his personal disappointment.
The England selectors have made their reservations about Compton palpable. After a season that has been middling compared to those that led to his Test debut, he surely needed a better return than 1100 runs at 40.74, admirable though those numbers are, to make the selectors reassess his suitability.
Perhaps no amount of runs against Yorkshire would have been enough to persuade the selectors, but Compton played with an assurance and solidity to suggest his previous highest first-class score, 254 not out, was far from unreachable. That the ball from James Middlebrook appeared to be sliding down the legside would not have made Compton feel any better.
Still, in his pristine offdriving, in defiance of Yorkshire slips poised for the shot, Compton had highlighted how refined his game is. If solidity is his trademark, growing assertiveness also marked this innings: after taking 65 balls over his first 20 runs, his next 129 came in 196 deliveries. It was enough for Compton to dream of an England recall.
"I woke up yesterday and decided to turn my phone off and make sure I put on a performance," he said. "They say timing is everything in life don't they? I certainly hope that's the case. I wanted to get a big total in this game and I'm glad that I was able to turn it on when I needed to.
"I was also delighted for Toby to get his maiden hundred, because he can bat really well. It was good for him and for team morale. We are second in the championship table and we wanted to show why we are second in this match."
Yorkshire enjoyed the day rather less, even as they revel in a Championship title secured even more emphatically than the last. After Sussex cruised to 493 for 7 at Hove this was the second time in three games Yorkshire have been neutered by a combination of a docile wicket, cloudless skies and tenacious batting.
They also have disturbing memories of their defeat against Middlesex at Lord's in April last year when Joe Root, skippering Yorkshire for the first time, gained the dressing room nickname "Craptain," famously declaring on another flat surface and watching with growing disbelief as Middlesex rattled up a record 472 for 3 to win the match.
If Yorkshire are to become the first side in 48 years to win a hat-trick of County Championships, they will have to overcome such obstacles: teams are becoming increasingly prone to preparing flat wickets when the Tykes come to town.
As Middlesex progressed to their highest-ever total against Yorkshire, surpassing 527 made at Huddersfield in 1887, Yorkshire had reason to bemoan their success in producing players for England. Although it helped little when they played at Hove, both Liam Plunkett and Adil Rashid would have added variety to an attack that suffered for its rather one-paced feel. The zest and combativeness of David Willey will surely help, but Yorkshire need to prepare for plenty more days on wickets like this next season.
The sight of Yorkshire attempting to manufacture a wicket - at one stage using three short extra covers and two short midwickets to try and remove Harris - was testament to how placid the pitch has begun.
Tim Wigmore is a freelance journalist and author of Second XI: Cricket in its Outposts