Contrasting centuries for Sam Robson and Paul Stirling helped Middlesex dominate the opening day against Yorkshire at Lord’s.
The White Rose’s bid for a third straight Specsavers County Championship win has been undermined by the champions close score of 337-4 from 96 overs.
Opener Robson, patient and happy to accumulate, and Stirling, in bullish mood, shared 187 in 45 overs for the third wicket to advance the score from 75-2 shortly before lunch.
Robson hit 152 not out off 276 balls with 18 fours, his second century in four matches this season.
Stirling’s 111 off 136 with 16 fours and a six marked his maiden century in this competition a little over four years after his debut.
After Gary Ballance opted to toss ahead of a hot North London day, his opposite number James Franklin won it and elected to bat.
Yorkshire struck twice before lunch through Steve Patterson and Jack Brooks.
Nick Compton edged Patterson behind for 22, pushing forwards in the 21st over, before Stevie Eskinazi chopped on to Brooks in the 26th for four.
The two wickets boosted the visitors, who had let slip chances as Robson offered a low return catch to Brooks on 31 and a diving Alex Lees at third slip had got a hand to an Eskinazi edge off Brooks on nought.
The Eskinazi chance, more of a half chance in truth, came earlier in the 26th over.
Robson and Stirling then dominated through the afternoon.
The former reached 50 off 81 balls shortly after lunch before Stirling later hit three fours in one Patterson over, the 47th, and reached his half-century off 69.
When Stirling came to the crease shortly before lunch, Robson had 36.
The Irishman hit Adam Lyth’s off-spinners for six over long-on and reached tea on 92 with Robson on 97.
The pair scored 145 in 37 overs in the afternoon, taking the tea-time score to 228-2 from 64 on a pitch which has a fringe tinge but has played very well for the batsmen.
Robson reached his second century in four matches this season off 184 balls, including 13 fours, in the first over after tea, late cutting Adil Rashid for three as 10 came off the over.
And Stirling reached his first in his third match in Rashid’s next, the 67th, off 119 with 15 fours and a six.
That took Middlesex to 244-2 and within touching distance of a second batting point.
Stirling’s previous four career hundreds in first-class cricket have come in an Ireland shirt between 2009 and 2015.
Having lost their way during the afternoon, Yorkshire improved after tea.
Rashid broke the partnership at the end of the 71st over when Stirling was trapped lbw pulling at a ball which kept low, leaving the score at 262-3.
Middlesex reached 300-3 in the 83rd over for a third batting point, by which times captain Franklin was in and Yorkshire had taken the new ball.
Ryan Sidebottom picked up the fourth wicket when he bowled Franklin for 17 in the 87th over – 302-4.
Robson offered a chance on 144, very tough like the Lees effort earlier, to a diving Rashid at over off Brooks late in the day.
Middlesex have yet to win in five matches this season, although they are chasing a fourth straight Championship win over Yorkshire on this ground.
John Simpson will begin day two alongside Robson on 13.
“It’s been a tough day with the weather and the pitch. It was pretty benign. The lads, overall, stuck to their task really well. There were a few nicks which didn’t carry and a few very close lbw decisions didn’t go our way.
“It was a frustrating day, but you can’t fault the lads’ efforts.
“You start the game trying to win it. If you can’t win it, you don’t want to lose it. Tomorrow will be a big day with that in mind. We need to try and get early wickets and get them out for as few as possible.
“Clearly we’ve got to bat well in our first innings and see where it takes us.
“Tonight’s important for their recovery to come back fresh and strong and go hard at the Middlesex batsmen in that first session tomorrow.
“We need wickets in that first session otherwise it’s going to be a long day again.
“The catches were half chances, but chances all the same. If they’re taken, it puts a different complex on things, particularly on flat pitches.
“Hopefully you take every chance that comes, but unfortunately we didn’t do that.”