It would be fair to say that Steve Eskinazi has enjoyed an eventful start to his first class career. Last September, he made his debut for Middlesex against Yorkshire at Lord’s, batted at five and found himself walking to the crease at the end of the first over of the match as Ryan Sidebottom disposed of Paul Stirling, Nick Compton and Dawid Malan.
From 14 for four, Middlesex, remarkably, having conceded a first innings deficit of 193, went on to win the match by 246 runs. A little more than a week ago, in the self-imposed absence of Compton, he was brought into the side once more, this time against the red rose, and marked the occasion by sweeping the teenage leg spinner Matt Parkinson over square leg for six, to reach a maiden first class century.
Now, at Scarborough, he has added to that with his second century in his next innings: the game really must seem like beer and skittles at present. Eskinazi batted for six and a half hours, to within half an hour of the close, scoring 157, before holing out to deep midwicket. Middlesex reached 470 for eight, a lead of 64 and a situation from which it is hard to envisage any result other than a draw unless they find hitherto hidden demons in the pitch. As Eskinazi will testify, stranger things have happened.
This was an accomplished innings. Eskinazi is a right hander with no frills or fripperies to his game, standing still and balanced, with no trigger movements, and offering the full face of the bat. His strength is driving on either side of the wicket, with one such stroke, sent just to the onside of straight and up the slope towards Trafalgar Square, as good as any in the match.
Until Yorkshire were able to take the second new ball, his only chance had come when he was on 54, as George Bailey, himself on his Middlesex championship debut, called him for a rapid single. Gary Ballance, with little to aim at, threw down the stumps but Eskinazi was judged to have got home by a smidgeon.
The new ball, though, brought some problems for the batsmen, and the runs began to dry up. Eskinazi had lost Bailey in the first session for 62, and after lunch, John Simpson. James Franklin, the Middlesex captain, had joined him but had taken 30 balls to get off the mark. Yorkshire began to turn the screw, crowding Eskinazi. Immediately after Simpson’s dismissal, when 84, he edged Tim Bresnan to Kane Williamson at third slip, but frustratingly, the chance went begging. Jack Brooks, whose wholeheartedness was to bring him five for 89, decided to test him with the short ball, and sluggishly as it came off the surface, it might have gone into the memory bank for future reference. Twenty nine balls in the nineties had produced seven scrappy runs. Finally, in frustration perhaps, he threw the bat at Patterson, got a thick outside edge and four runs to third man. The hundred had come from 224 balls with 17 fours.
Before he was caught at cover off a leading edge for 99 (167 balls, 10 fours and two sixes) Franklin played an excellent hand, particularly in a fifth-wicket partnership of 172 with Eskinazi, just as Bailey had in the third-wicket stand of 121. If it took him a while to get established, then once in properly he clobbered Rhodes for his first six and greeted a new spell from Bresnan by pulling him meatily for another, into the fish and chip stall … and out again. Benaud would have liked that.
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