Gary Ballance gave a broad hint to the England selectors that he is still around by scoring his first Championship century since last August on the first day of Yorkshire’s Specsavers County Championship match against Middlesex at Scarborough.
He had reached 106 by the close and with further strong contributions from Alex Lees and Tim Bresnan the title-holders were able to end the day on 291 for five.
Winning the toss on a sunny morning, Yorkshire made the worst possible start as Adam Lyth failed to remove his bat from Tim Murtagh’s first delivery and was caught behind by John Simpson.
But Lees looked in good form from the off and after Kane Williamson had taken 36 balls to settle in with his first boundary the pair added 85 together before New Zealand’s captain also showed little inclination to withdraw his bat and he gave a second catch to Simpson, this time off James Franklin.
Just before Williamson’s departure for 28, Lees had completed a confident half-century by off-driving Ollie Rayner for six, the ball being well held by a spectator on the back row of the Peasholm Park stand.
Lees has had a lean time of it in home Championship matches for quite a while and his chance of making a sizeable contribution disappeared when he was taken at second slip by Rayner off Murtagh for 63 from 99 balls with eight fours and two sixes. It was his best score on home soil since hitting 83 off Somerset’s attack at Headingley in September 2014.
Captain, Andrew Gale, in urgent need of runs, fell lbw to a full ball from Toby Roland-Jones for only seven, and at 131-4 this was another case of Yorkshire needing someone from the middle order to help shore them up.
Bresnan once more answered the call with his third 60-plus score in five innings since his belated start to the campaign following a pre-season calf injury.
Both batsmen entertained the 3,200 crowd to some quality stroke-play, Ballance moving to his 50 in the over before tea from 121 deliveries with nine fours and after the interval another Ballance boundary brought hosts Yorkshire their first batting bonus point at 202-4.
Bresnan’s single that took him to his half-century also raised the century stand but when it had reached 126 he was bowled by the persevering Murtagh for 63 from 123 deliveries with 10 boundaries.
There was no stopping Ballance, however, who clipped a second successive four off Murtagh to arrive at his first Championship century since making 165 against Sussex at Hove last August. In a chanceless display, Ballance had struck 16 fours and faced 202 balls in going to his 14th first class century for his county.
His previous one had been for the Champion county against MCC in March.