Sam Robson and Nick Gubbins both underlined their England Test selection credentials by scoring fine hundreds and building a brilliant 241-run opening stand for Middlesex against Essex at Lord’s.
Gubbins was finally removed for 101 on the stroke of tea, caught at the wicket pushing forward to Aaron Beard, but Robson remained 144 not out with Middlesex in complete command at 255 for 1 when bad light brought an early finish to the day’s play.
Robson, 27, who played seven Tests in 2014, looked in great touch - especially with his trademark square drives, cuts and flicks off the hip - and could come into England’s selection plans again later this summer if he maintains this sort of form.
Gubbins, the 23-year-old left-hander, was close to a senior England winter tour call-up after hitting 1,409 Specsavers County Championship runs at 61.26 last year but had to be content with England Lions selection instead when first Haseeb Hameed and later Keaton Jennings were both chosen ahead of him.
It will also have done both players no harm that England Test opener and former Test captain Alastair Cook is playing in this match and watched from close quarters as they dominated the Essex attack. Lulled into choosing an uncontested toss by a green-looking pitch, Essex were soon regretting their decision to bowl first in Middlesex’s first home Division One match of the season.
The champions, who admitted they were rusty in their opening draw at Hampshire last week, were given the perfect start by Robson and Gubbins and, by the 55th over of the day, beleaguered Essex captain Ryan ten Doeschate was turning to his seventh bowler, part-time spinner Dan Lawrence, in an effort to break the partnership. In the end, he had to wait until the 64th over.
Robson’s was the more fluent innings, and he reached the 18th century of his first-class career with his 19th four, a thick edge to third man off Ravi Bopara, and from only 140 balls. It was the closest he came to a false stroke throughout a highly impressive knock.
Gubbins took 192 balls to reach three figures, but towards the end of his innings he struck off spinner Simon Harmer twice for six and there were also 13 fours in the 23-year-old left-hander’s excellent effort. In all, Gubbins - who drove down the ground with authority at times - faced 195 balls, while Robson had included 24 fours from 196 balls when bad light forced the players from the field at 4.35pm.
For Essex, Neil Wagner and Jamie Porter were the pick of the seamers but former South African Test spinner Harmer struggled on what, despite its appearance, proved to be a flat surface.