Ballance century puts County under the pump

Maurice Chambers delivered a tight opening spell before lunch at Headingley

Maurice Chambers delivered a tight opening spell before lunch at Headingley

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Yorkshire had the better of proceedings on day one of the LV= County Championship encounter at Headingley.

It was a long day in the field for Northamptonshire who, with the home side 57-3 early in the afternoon session, would’ve fancied their chances of rolling them over, but a fine partnership between Gary Ballance and Alex Lees and some off-colour bowling ensured that failed to materialise.

Ballance was the tormentor in chief, making a faultless century from the middle order and he will be there again come tomorrow morning on 117 with the scoreboard showing a well above par total of 328-7

Yorkshire, it would be easy to argue, chose the more challenging of the two options available upon winning the toss and choosing to go in first.

With rain in the air and on a surface that promised some movement, if not always then certainly when the ball was new, batting was never going to be a piece of cake in the initial stages.

And so it proved as the visitors, either side of two brief rain interruptions, were made to struggle.

All of the attack, by maintaining a full length, found enough deviation to cause problems and the wickets of Adam Lyth and Kane Williamson to Muhammad Azharullah and Andrew Hall respectively before lunch were just desserts.

The stranglehold on the scoring rate continued after the break and wicket number three arrived when Andrew Gale was hit in front by Azharullah.

Yet that was it for a while as far as making inroads went as the pairing of Lees and Ballance both settled everything down and began to score with more freedom.

The tide had turned to such an extent that the 50 partnership came at better than a run a ball which was out of kilter with what had gone before.

Caught between the two stools of wanting to attack but needing to assert some control, the County ended up doing neither as the proportionally high tally of boundaries indicated.

They didn’t help themselves though as in the space of 10 minutes they contrived to give Lees, who had looked comfortable up to that point, two let offs straight after he reached his half century.

Firstly, after a period of relatively inactivity, the usually reliable Hall dropped a waist-high chance at first slip off the bowling of Maurice Chambers.

That was bad enough but a missed stumping by David Murphy when Lees had an almighty rush of blood, was poor cricket all round.

The indiscretion was harsh on James Middlebrook who had done a fine job in drying things up from the Rugby Stand End but it showed that chances would appear if the scoring could be dried up.

While Lees was having his half an hour of skittishness which, ironically enough was ended with a streaky edge where a second slip would, and probably should, have been, Ballance was impressively going about his work at the other end.

With the national team in a state of flux and batting places up for grabs, the one-cap left-hander has made a solid start to the campaign and he looked in prime touch.

Especially strong through the off-side, the number five put away anything loose that was served up and his fluency had a galvanising effect on his junior partner until, 10 runs short of three figures, Hall seamed one back through his forward push.

The breakthrough didn’t slow the hosts’ progress as Adil Rashid joined the fray and he contributed a breezy 33 before becoming the fourth lbw victim of the day just before the second new ball was due.

That was taken straight away and should really have provided a breakthrough but Andrew Hodd survived as Kyle Coetzer grassed a chance at third slip off Steven Crook.

The wicketkeeper and Liam Plunkett added to the tally of leg before scorebook entries before the close but they don’t detract from the fact that this was Yorkshire’s day.