Middlesex 342 for 3 (Malan 147, Voges 127*) v Hampshire
It is, in more ways than one, hard to imagine being sick of the sight of Dawid Malan. Tall, elegant, and left-handed, he has all the tools that come in the purr-inducing starter pack: the late cut, the drives on the up from point to mid-on, the sheer disdain on that tall pull and those dismissive flicks through midwicket. He is the type of leftie for whom the term southpaw actually has meaning; Malan has boxerish poise and balance, and possesses fleet of foot and sleight of hand at the end of powerful limbs.
Hampshire, however, could be forgiven for wanting to see the back of him. They arrived at Merchant Taylor's School having, this month alone, been on the end of an elegant Championship century and a brutal Twenty20 93, at Uxbridge on Friday night. Then, he had dispatched his first five balls for four, and went on to hit five sixes; words, feisty ones, were exchanged with Tino Best. Of course they were; they always are.
Yet here Hampshire were again. 147 for Malan this time, in a stand of 279 with his captain Adam Voges, who finished the day unbeaten on 127. All five of Malan's gears were on display, and no part of the sluggish outfield went unused; he used his quick feet to the spinners and stood deep in the crease to the seamers, Best especially.
If Middlesex were not a team who relished one another's success with such gusto - see the celebration of each of Ollie Rayner's recent wickets as evidence - you would wonder if Sam Robson and Nick Gubbins, the form men in recent weeks, must have cursed the conditions handed to them first thing - 11 celsius, overcast and a dewy outfield - as the clouds parted and things became increasingly benign for Malan and Voges later in the day. Both openers were caught in the cordon, first Gubbins fending half-forward to James Tomlinson and taken low at third slip, then a battling Robson at second off Best. Both left with the slow, solemn walk of men who believed their team were heading for a tough day.
If the scorecard seems at odds with that opening and the openers' outlook, it is because Middlesex's dominant position was carved out by exceptional batting rather than a perfect batting surface. It felt, in so many ways, like a morning for bowling. A scoreline of 14 for 2 seemed to support that theory.
Yet both Will Smith, in asking for a toss, and Voges, in choosing to bat upon winning it, had looked down, not up. The pitch, while providing limited lateral movement, seemed a little up and down, while the sightscreen at the Benham End - from which, last year, Steven Finn gave Somerset a torrid time and Jamie Overton rapped the grille of a batsman of Nick Compton's quality - is really rather small. The slope, running down from that end, is pronounced and, while this seems truer than the surface for last year's rain-ravaged draw, a result - should the weather allow - seems probable.
This, though, only serves to highlight the fact that Malan and Voges earned the blue skies they batted under and soft ball they batted against later. Early, it was a slog, a graft, with lbw shouts - each led by Best, each louder than the last - more common than convincing strokes. Singles were the mechanism for survival, and the only boundaries seemed to come to fine leg as the seamers strayed onto their hips. Best was ticking and talking, while Ryan McLaren nagged and probed.
Slowly but surely, though, they settled, growing in authority. They moved tit for tat, sharing the strike, sharing the four balls that eventually came from a tiring if gallant attack. This was a pair of experienced pros ticking along together, patiently, steadfastly acccumulating: their running was assured, and the defence forthright. Only when they had 80 and Malan accelerated through to his century, reached moments after tea by slapping a Best full toss through the covers for four, were they separated. From there Malan sprinted, whacking Mason Crane down the ground for a perfect six, and playing a remarkable upper cut over wide third man off Best for six more. The booming drives kept coming until he flashed hard at Liam Dawson and was well caught at slip.
From there, Voges took control, and looked a man intent on his side only batting once. He shared a sprightly 49-run stand against the new ball with John Simpson, and moved to his ton with his ease as Crane lost his length. Three consecutive fours: half-tracker, full-bunger, half-tracker did the trick as 91 became 103. The morning's chirps from Hampshire, by now sick of the sight of Voges as well as Malan, had truly subsided.
Will Macpherson writes on cricket for the Guardian, ESPNcricinfo and All Out Cricket. @willis_macp