Middlesex’s England stars of the present and potentially of the near future dominated day one of their Specsavers County Championship match with Gloucestershire at Lord’s.
Nick Gubbins, being touted as a possible opener for England’s first Test of the summer against Pakistan later this month, gave a wonderful audition for the role, before falling one short of a deserved century in a total of 356 for six.
Skipper Dawid Malan – a current red-ball incumbent for the national side – and England’s white-ball captain Eoin Morgan weighed in with 76 apiece, the latter on his first Championship appearance in almost three years.
The persevering Daniel Worrall was Gloucester’s standout bowler with three for 59.
It is the first time in 13 matches that Middlesex have passed 300 in the first innings.
Gubbins wasted no time making Gloucestershire regret their decision to forego the toss and bowl.
He survived a couple of early scares, the first when wicketkeeper Gareth Roderick dropped him down the leg side off the bowling of Worrall when on just 17.
The second shortly after saw him almost run out by a direct hit from Graeme van Buuren, the ball ricocheting to the boundary for a rare five.
Gubbins’ cover drives were a joy to behold and the opener was also quick to savagely cut anything short and wide.
Sam Robson, perhaps fortunate to retain his place at the expense of Max Holden, by contrast looked edgy early on but found some batting rhythm particularly with some punchy drives through mid-wicket.
The pair added 77 before the excellent Worrall squared up Robson who edged a low catch to Roderick. Gubbins though carried on unperturbed, hitting 10 boundaries in reaching 50 off 73 balls.
Stevie Eskinazi proved a good foil either side of lunch before playing a poor shot to a wide one from Worrall, which Kieran Noema-Barnett palmed upwards before claiming at the second attempt.
It was the beginning of an excellent spell from Australian quick Worrall, who ended Gubbins’ hopes of back-to-back Championship centuries when the left-hander gloved a rising delivery to give Roderick a second catch behind the stumps.
Sadly, for the visitors, none of Worrall’s team-mates found the same life or bowled with the same control, meaning Malan and Morgan wrestled back control with a century stand.
Malan, buoyed by last week’s century against Sussex, was the early aggressor with some stylish, dreamy off drives, but England’s white-ball captain caught the mood, hoisting Van Buuren for a straight six.
Such was the duo’s dominance it was a shock when Malan fell to the new ball, trapped lbw by Matthew Taylor to a ball which pitched and rolled along the floor – surely ominous for Gloucestershire, whose earlier decision to bowl means they must bat last.
Taylor soon struck again when new batsman Hilton Cartwright wafted a catch to slip and departed without scoring.
Morgan fell lbw just before the close to another ball which kept low from former Middlesex all-rounder, but the hosts have the early initiative.