Rather like the No 82 London buses that transfer cricket fans from St John’s Wood toward Victoria Station, Australian top-order batsmen appear to work in pairs at Middlesex these days.
No sooner did the Panthers sign the nuggety New South Wales left-hander Chris Rogers from Derbyshire than their other Aussie – Sydney-born youngster Sam Robson – started to perform with such aplomb that he has now secured a first team place ahead of schedule.
“Sam’s performances have been a very pleasant surprise because previously we hadn’t seen him play this consistently,” said Middlesex managing director of cricket Gus Fraser.
“He’s always had the desire to bat for long periods of time and puts a high price on his wicket. He’s an old-fashioned type of opener because he gives nothing away and allows freer players to bat around him.
“He’s done well because at the start of the season Dan Housego got the nod ahead of him after scoring a big hundred against a good attack in a pre-season friendly at Hampshire. We went with Dan and gave him a decent run, but in the meantime Sam went back to the Second XI and scored hundreds and hundreds. He’s averaging 110 for the twos, and that won him an opportunity against Essex at Chelmsford, which he took by scoring 145.”
Fraser added: “He’s followed that up with important 90s in the second innings of games against Kent and Surrey to see us over the line chasing targets when, in the past, we may have messed up. He’s come on magnificently and we’re chuffed with where he is right now. He’s beginning to look a very good player.”
While Fraser acknowledges the work of Middlesex batting coach Mark O’Neill for his part in Robson’s development, he also credits the arrival of Rogers for helping to accelerate the advancement of his 22-year-old countryman.
“Chris has been great for Sam in a mentoring role,” said Fraser. “Not just technique-wise, but in terms of the mentality of playing, grinding it out, the real life nitty-gritty of batting.
“With Chris and Mark working alongside him, Sam has both areas covered, which is hugely advantageous for him and the club. When we made the decision not to offer Owais Shah a new deal we had to then try to get those runs from somewhere else and Chris’s record is outstanding. But to me, his personality was important.
“He’s a tough, gnarled old batsman who doesn’t mind scoring ugly runs but who also loves spending time at the crease. Added to which, he’s good fun, he brings energy to the side.
“There’s a bit of mischief about him in the dressing room some days, but you need that mix of individuals in a successful side. You don’t want to produce conveyor-belt cricketers.”