Middlesex v Kent, County Championship, Lord's, 1st day April 26, 2006

Joyce presses his claims

Middlesex 333 all out (Joyce 130, Joseph 4-62) v Kent

Amjad Khan appeals - unsuccessfully - for lbw against Ben Hutton in the first over of the match © Martin WIlliamson
With England's batting stocks in a healthy state, those players trying to force their way in through county cricket will have to wait patiently for their turn. The A team named to face Sri Lanka next week gives a fair indication of the pecking order and, on the first day at Lord's, Ed Joyce offered reminder of why he is in that list, if not quite at the top.

He is not in the immediate frame for a call-up after the winter successes of Paul Collingwood, Alastair Cook and Owais Shah, but he enjoyed a reasonably impressive A tour of West Indies - with three half-centuries in the one-day series - and all he can do now is churn out a mountain of runs for Middlesex. This was a decent start and he was easily the most assured batsman on show after beginning confidently with punchy shots through the legside. He motored along a decent rate, in conditions that had tempted Robert Key, Kent's captain, to bowl first but were initially wasted by the bowlers.

Joyce is not quite in the flamboyant mould of most of England's current order, but he knows his game and last season produced the goods as he racked up 1668 runs at 61 in the County Championship. He began this season with a minor blip, failing twice for MCC against Nottinghamshire, but the first serious bat of a summer can often be a hit and miss affair.

Here, though, he was back to his compact best and didn't offer a chance, progressing to a composed century off 148 balls, the 15th first-class ton of his career. He doesn't make great use of the straight boundaries, preferring to work the ball square, but is content to wait for the right ball to hit. It can be easy to label a left-hander who doesn't bludgeon the ball like Brian Lara, Matthew Hayden or Marcus Trescothick as a nudger and nurdler. While there is certainly this aspect to Joyce's game he also possess the power to thread the infield - or go over it - as his late six into the Grandstand showed.

What Joyce must now do is show that he is better than what is currently in the England side. Geoff Miller, the England selector, watched part of the day from the press box and hinted that it will take a lot of runs for the management to try new batsmen given the choices that are currently on offer.

But as showed by the likes of Cook and Shah, who will line-up alongside Joyce for England A next week, a chance can come along out of the blue and then it is about grasping the moment. Middlesex were certainly grateful he took his chance today after they frittered away their tea position of 220 for 4. Kent's bowling improved through the day, following a wasteful start with the new ball. Ed Smith, against his former team-mates, was squared-up and edged to second slip, while Shah didn't settle during his brief stay in the middle. He was fortunate to escape a bottom-edged pull before edging to second slip straight after lunch.

Joyce's fluency was in sharp contrast to the obduracy of Ben Hutton, who took 148 balls over his 47 before top-edging a pull to long leg and wasting his hard graft. The attack continued to chip away and Justin Kemp was rewarded for a preserving display when he removed Nick Compton and Ben Scott, while Robbie Joseph deserved his Championship-best four-wicket haul. Martin van Jaarsveld had a good day at second slip, holding three catches of which the third, to remove Craig Wright, was a sharp effort in front of first slip.

Middlesex's late demise only went to highlight the importance of Joyce's effort. He was a class apart today and more innings like this will make his case very hard to ignore - regardless of the other batsmen in the frame.

Andrew McGlashan is editorial assistant of Cricinfo