The first five games of Middlesex’s title defence have not exactly gone to plan. Some of their cricket has been passive, and injuries and call-ups have been disruptive, not least for this game, with the batting backbone of Nick Gubbins, Dawid Malan and Adam Voges all absent. The impressive unbeaten run is gone, too, and they are winless.
But they like playing Yorkshire – who have lost their past three at Lord’s, and their last three against Middlesex, all in remarkable fashion – and through centuries from Sam Robson (152 not out) and Paul Stirling (111), the latter’s long overdue first in Championship cricket, they have carved a strong position on a pitch that appears green but largely played true (save for a couple that stayed low) under a beating sun. As they tend to when Stirling is in town, runs flowed freely throughout.
If Stirling’s was the more eye-catching innings, Robson’s was the most refined. He is unquestionably a superior player than the youngster who played seven Tests in the summer of 2014. Here he subsisted on his staple diet of crisp cuts, caressed cover drives, and accomplished work off his pads, as well as plenty of leaves. The only blot came on 31, when Jack Brooks dropped a sharp, low chance off his own bowling. By day’s end, he had 121 more, his 150 brought up with a pulled four off Adil Rashid.
Having taken lunch on zero after Nick Compton was caught behind propping heavy-handedly forward to Steve Patterson and Stevie Eskinazi was beaten for pace by Brook, Stirling scored 92 in the afternoon session as Yorkshire’s lines wilted in the heat. Until he was trapped in front by one that kept low from Adil Rashid (who he had earlier stuck into the Allen stand), Stirling’s timing, whether driving, cutting or pulling, was perfect, and his ton came in 120 balls.
Given Ireland are set to be awarded ICC full-member status this week, it was an appropriate innings, too. After he fell Yorkshire, who improved in the final session, managed to calm Middlesex’s scoring. They lost James Franklin for 17, bowled by Ryan Sidebottom two balls after an unsuccessful lbw appeal so impressive it drew a round of applause from the strong crowd. It had been that sort of day – such exertion felt worth celebrating.
James Anderson returned from injury, but Lancashire endured a frustrating day thanks to Hampshire’s George Bailey and Kyle Abbott. Coming in with Hampshire 38 for three, Bailey made 127 before chopping on to become Anderson’s only wicket. His final partnership, worth 82, was with No9 Abbott, who closed on 76 with Hampshire 351 for eight.
At Chelmsford, Essex closed 263 for five against Warwickshire on an attritional day between top and bottom. Nick Browne and Ravi Bopara both made 84, the latter unbeaten, with a first Championship century since 2014 in sight.
On a rollicking day between second and third in Division Two, 13 wickets fell for 355 runs at New Road. Joe Leach and Josh Tongue took three wickets apiece as Worcestershire bowled out Kent for 260 (although that seems a little like a let-off from 139 for seven), before the hosts closed on 95 for three.
Moeen Ali, evidently discombobulated into thinking he was entering the fray in the 45th over of a one-day international, produced a curious innings. He faced 16 balls, hit nine of them for four (with some lovely drives, as per usual) then picked out the man on the fence at deep square-leg. Joe Clarke, the impish right-hander seemingly destined to follow Moeen into the Test side, picked up where he left off, taking Darren Stevens for four fours in an over on his way to an unbeaten 34 off 38.
Nottinghamshire, the leaders, enjoyed a very fine day after being invited to bat without a toss by Leicestershire. Samit Patel made it 602 runs for once out in four innings across formats with a brilliant unbeaten 157 from 222 balls as Nottinghamshire closed on 345 for four.
Durham’s Chris Rushworth, toiling as manfully as ever in such taxing heat, took five for 40 in 19 overs as Glamorgan ambled to 221 for seven, with 31 of the 96 overs maiden (including 13 of Ryan Pringle’s 19). Nick Selman made his third century of the season until he became one of three batsmen dismissed by Rushworth armed with the new ball late in the day.