When struggling England batsman Keaton Jennings was dismissed for a duck in the first innings of the third Test, Sam Robson – a potential rival for his place – was hardly glued to the opener’s every move. Robson was “chilling” on the golf course.
“I’m a very wild and woolly golfer. I don’t hit it very straight. I’m like a cricketer out there; I hit cover drives and hit it through mid-wicket,” Robson told City A.M.
It is those aforementioned strokes with bat in hand, however, that are fuelling forgotten man Robson’s determination to force his way back into the international reckoning after a three-year exile.
The role of Alastair Cook’s opening partner remains an unsolved conundrum of English Test cricket. Robson is one of 11 to have auditioned for the role since Andrew Strauss’ retirement in 2012.
The 28-year-old was given seven Tests, which brought a century against Sri Lanka, to stake his claim during 2014 until the baton was passed to Jonathan Trott for England’s Caribbean tour the following April.
The selectors may have opted to persevere with Jennings for this week’s fourth Investec Test at Old Trafford, but that has not deterred Robson from targeting a seat on the plane for the winter’s Ashes battle.
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have half an eye on it,” said Australia-born Robson. “I’d love to play for England again. I feel like I’m a better player now than I was when I got my chance first time around.
“You look at tours and things like that and an Ashes tour in Australia would be unbelievable. If you’re a county player, doing all right and in the hunt it’s something you’ll be looking at it.
“You never know how close you are and it’s runs that dictate. If you’re in the runs and scoring well you might be close if an opportunity arises. It’s pretty clear-cut in that respect.”
Conventional wisdom pointed at Robson’s fledgling Test career being cut short due to the right-hander having a flaw in his technique outside off stump, with question marks over his judgement on what to leave.
He averages a tick over 30 at international level having backed up his century against Sri Lanka at Headingley with 59 at Trent Bridge versus India. But only 106 runs followed in his next six innings.
“I look back at it positively. To win a series against India and come out with a Test hundred; I felt like I made some good contributions albeit I wasn’t consistent enough when I was there,” added Robson.
“The following year, in 2015, I had a lean year [in county cricket] but since then I’ve been reasonably consistent. I don’t think I’ve been hard done by; the year after I just didn’t bang the door down.
“If I was to get another opportunity I would be better equipped.”
A maximum of six County Championship matches remain this term for Robson to press his case for a second shot at Test cricket, starting with Middlesex’s clash with Warwickshire at Lord’s which begins on Sunday.
Despite missing five weeks with a hamstring injury, Robson has scored 534 runs at an average of 59.33 so far, while he also notched 47 for England Lions against a strong South Africa bowling attack in June.
“I certainly feel I’ve had a good year. I feel like I’m in a good place and things are going well,” added Robson.
“The challenge is to finish it off now. I know I have to keep scoring runs. The final half a dozen games of the year will be big for me.”
A prolific end to the campaign for Robson would also boost Middlesex’s hopes of retaining their championship title. The defending champions are currently fifth in Division One, 44 points adrift of leaders Essex
“Everyone is after you [as champions] and maybe that affected us for a while but we’re back up to scratch now,” said Robson. “If we string a few wins together we’ll be right up there
“A win or two at the right time and we’ll be in the hunt. You win it once and the challenge is to keep being successful.”